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THE UNIVERSITY 

OF ILLINOIS 

LIBRARY 

FA 



*\kJ 









ANGOLA 




MAP SHOWING ROUTE OF EXPEDITION 
Scale: 1 inch = 229 miles; indicates route 



Field Museum of Natural History 

Founded by Marshall Field, 1893 

Publication 329 
Anthropological Series Vol. XXI, No. 2 



THE OVIMBUNDU OF ANGOLA 

BY 

Wilfrid D. Hambly 

ASSISTANT CURATOR OP AFRICAN ETHNOLOGY 



Frederick H. Rawson-Field Museum Ethnological Expedition 
To West Africa, 1929-30 



84 Plates in Photogravure and 1 Map 



Berthold Laufer 

CURATOR, DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY 
EDITOR 




***** 

N ' V£RS 'TY or 



CHICAGO, U. S. A. 
1934 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 
BY FIELD MUSEUM PRESS 



5' 
FA 



Z 



CONTENTS 

MM 

List of Illustrations 93 

Preface 103 

I. Introduction 105 

II. Geographical Factors 108 

III. Historical Sources 112 

IV. Physical Appearance 128 

V. Economic Life 133 

Nature Lore 134 

Food Supply 140 

Collecting and Hunting 140 

Fishing 145 

Agriculture and Cooking 146 

Domestic Animals 152 

Trade and Transport 156 

Industries 158 

Iron-work 158 

Wood-carving 161 

Domestic Implements 165 

Pottery 167 

Mats and Baskets 169 

Weapons 172 

Leather Work 176 

Spinning and Weaving 177 

VI. Social Life 179 

Sexual Relations 179 

Courtship 179 

Marriage 180 

Divorce 181 

Pregnancy and Childbirth 183 

Naming 188 

Terms of Relationship 189 

Law and Government 199 

Warfare and Slavery 204 

Village Organization 206 

VII. Education 212 

Industrial Training and Division of Labor 212 

Standards of Conduct, Manners, and Salutations .... 213 

89 



90 Contents 

PAGE 

Educational Value of Play, Music, and Dancing 216 

Initiation 226 

VIII. Language 234 

Affinities of Umbundu 234 

Vocabulary 236 

Phonetics 237 

Vowels 237 

Consonants 238 

Tone and Stress 239 

The Syllable 240 

Grammar 240 

The Class System 240 

Pronouns 244 

Principal Tenses 245 

Transcription of Folklore Stories 248 

Sign Language 252 

Riddles and Proverbs 253 

Folklore Stories 255 

IX. Religion 262 

Supreme Being 262 

Survival after Death 262 

Religious Beliefs and Conduct 264 

Funeral Rites 265 

Commoners 265 

Medicine-men 270 

Kings and Chiefs 271 

Hunters 272 

Training of Medicine-men 273 

Functions of Medicine-men 273 

Divination 274 

Equipment and Miscellaneous Duties 276 

Curing the Sick 278 

Rain-making 282 

Poison Ordeal 283 

Ceremonial Fire 283 

Prohibitions and Omens 285 

X. Culture Contacts 286 

Congo Basin 286 

Rhodesia 296 

South West Africa 303 



Contents 91 

PAGB 

XL Wider Culture Contacts 312 

Antiquity of Cultural Traits 312 

The Blacksmith's Craft in Africa 313 

Bantu Religion and Social System 314 

African Puberty Rites 316 

Hunting Appliances of Africa 317 

African Pottery, Baskets, and Musical Instruments. . 319 

Kulturkreis Theory 320 

XII. Cultural Processes 327 

Analysis of African Cultures 327 

Assembling of Traits 331 

Cultural Losses 334 

Integration of Traits 337 

Bibliography 349 

Index 356 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Map (facing title-page). Angola. 

IX. Basket-work Patterns, Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. Nos. 
208944-50, actual size. Fig. 1. Big star (olombun- 
gululu vinene). Fig. 2. Trunk of epangue tree 
(ocisila cepangu). Fig. 3. Wave pattern (apuku 
atito). Fig. 4. Kerchief pattern (cdesu). Fig. 5. 
Arrow (usongo). Fig. 6. A reclining object (onjandu). 
Fig. 7. Following one another (imbagu). Fig. 8. Hoe 
handle (ovipi viatimo). Fig. 9. Spots (atumba). 

X. Basket-work Patterns, Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. Nos. 
208087, 208879-82, actual size. Fig. 1. Wave 
pattern (apuku atito). Fig. 2. Pattern of kings 
(olosoma). Fig. 3. Ribbed pattern (olomati). Fig. 4. 
Double arrow (usonge wayombo). Fig. 5. Star 
(olombungululu) . 

XL Incised and Burned Designs on a Gourd, Vachokue, 
Kuchi. Cat. No. 208032, dimensions 23 x 23 cm, 
patterns half actual size. 

XII. Incised and Burned Decorations on Gourds. Fig. 1. 
From the chief village of the Vangangella, Ngalangi. 
Cat. No. 208007, dimensions 26x4 cm. Fig. 2. 
Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208012, dimensions 
21 x 8.5 cm. Fig. 3. Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 
208010, dimensions 15 x 10 cm. Fig. 4. Ovimbundu, 
Elende. Cat. No. 208004, dimensions 31 x 20 cm. 
Fig. 5. Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208013, 
dimensions 22 x 9.5 cm. Fig. 6. Gourd used to 
contain beer for a bride and groom, Ovimbundu, 
Bailundu. Cat. No. 208001, dimensions 39 x 26 cm. 

XIII. Wooden Combs, Tools, Domestic Implements, and 
Weapons. Fig. 1. Knife used for cutting branches, 
Vasele. Cat. No. 208427, dimensions 50 x 5 cm. 
Fig. 2. Combined ax and adze, Ovimbundu, Elende. 
Cat. No. 208432, length 73 cm. Fig. 3. Wooden 
pounder for maize, Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 
208404, length 31 cm. Fig. 4. Small ax used by 
medicine-man when dancing to drive away evil 
spirits, Ovimbundu, Bailundu. Cat. No. 208415, 

93 



94 List of Illustrations 

length 32.5 cm. Fig. 5. Ceremonial ax, formerly 
used for beheading slaves at the death of a king, 
Vasele, near Vila Nova de Selles. Cat. No. 208263, 
length 42 cm. Fig. 6. Hunter's pouch for ammuni- 
tion, Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 209059, dimen- 
sions 15 x 12 cm. Fig. 7. Three wooden hair-combs, 
Ovimbundu, Elende, and Vachokue, Cangamba. 
Cat. Nos. 208462, 208459, 208453, one-fourth actual 
size. Fig. 8. Iron spear, Ovimbundu, Bailundu. 
Cat. No. 208244, length 37 cm. Fig. 9. Hoe, Ovim- 
bundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208429, length 51 cm. 
Fig. 10. Hoe used by Vangangella, Ngalangi. 
Cat. No. 208439, length 85 cm. 

XIV. Pottery and Wooden Utensils. Fig. 1. Earthenware 
water-jar, Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208208, 
dimensions 42 x 14 cm. Fig. 2. Small cooking pot, 
Vasele, near Vila Nova de Selles. Cat. No. 208201, 
dimensions 12 x 10 cm. Fig. 3. Earthenware water- 
bottle, Vasele, Vila Nova de Selles. Cat. No. 209007, 
dimensions 24x23 cm. Fig. 4. Earthenware food 
bowl, Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208223, dimen- 
sions 20 x 9.5 cm. Fig. 5. Cooking pot, Ovimbundu, 
Elende. Cat. No. 208202, dimensions 16.5 x 13 cm. 
Fig. 6. Milk vessel, Vakuanyama, Mongua. Cat. 
No. 208152, dimensions 28 x 21 cm. Fig. 7. Wooden 
spoon, Vachokue, Kuchi. Cat. No. 208143, dimen- 
sions 34x9 cm. Fig. 8. Wooden milk jug, 
Vakuanyama, Mongua. Cat. No. 208243, dimensions 
21 x 13 cm. Fig. 9. Wooden spoon and stirrer, 
Vachokue, Cangamba. Cat. No. 208164, dimensions 
60.5 x 9.5 cm. 

XV. Tobacco-pipes, Snuff Box, Rat Trap, and Basket. 
Fig. 1. Tobacco-pipe, Vachokue, Ngalangi. Cat. 
No. 208715, length 74 cm. Fig. 2. Tobacco-pipe, 
Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208709, length 35 cm. 
Fig. 3. Water-pipe for smoking tobacco and hemp, 
Vachokue, Cangamba. Cat. No. 208688, length 
29 cm. Fig. 4. Carved wooden snuff box, Ovimbundu, 
Elende. Cat. No. 208708, length 23 cm. Fig. 5. 
Wicker rat trap, Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 
208039, length 33 cm. Fig. 6. Coiled basket with 



List of Illustrations 95 

inwoven patterns of amber and black, Ovimbundu, 
Bailundu. Cat. No. 208926, dimensions 37 x 18 cm. 

XVI. Tools and Weapons. Fig. 1. Spearhead, Vachokue, 
Munyangi. Cat. No. 208372, dimensions 30.5 x 3.3 
cm. Fig. 2. Knife, Vachokue, Saurimo in Lunda. 
Cat. No. 208375, dimensions 21.5 cm. Fig. 3. Black- 
smith's hammer, Vangangella, Ngalangi. Cat. No. 
208826, length 18 cm. Fig. 4. Saw of native make, 
Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208362, length 71 cm. 
Fig. 5. Iron-bladed tool for boring wood, Ovimbundu, 
Elende. Cat. No. 208368, length 57 cm. Fig. 6. 
Blacksmith's tongs, Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 
208813, length 52 cm. Fig. 7. Blacksmith's hammer, 
Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208823, length 33 cm. 
Fig. 8. Axhead, Vachokue, Cangamba. Cat. No. 
208817, length 26 cm. Fig. 9. Blacksmith's punch, 
Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208816, length 24 cm. 
Fig. 10. Knife in wooden scabbard, Vakuanyama, 
Mongua. Cat. No. 208357, length 54 cm. Fig. 11. 
Brass bracelet made by blacksmith, Elende. Cat. 
No. 208503, width 5 cm. Fig. 12. Bellows of black- 
smith, Ngalangi. Cat. No. 208831, dimensions 
55 x 34 cm. 

XVII. Bows and Arrowheads. Fig. 1. The bow and arrow, 
with details of stringing and feathering, are typical 
of implements of Ovimbundu and Vachokue tribes. 
Cat. No. 208663, length 143 cm. The arrowheads 
were collected from Vachokue hunters from 
Cangamba to Saurimo in Lunda. Cat. Nos. 208643- 
652, 654, 656, length average 80 cm. Fig. 2. Arrow- 
heads, Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. Nos. 208623, 
615, 618, 616, length of each about 80 cm. Fig. 3. 
Wooden arrow for shooting birds, Ovimbundu, 
Elende. Cat. No. 208633, length 88 cm. Figs. 4-6. 
Socketed iron arrowheads, Vakuanyama, Mongua. 
Cat. Nos. 208598, 592, 601, lengths 67, 58, 66 cm. 
Fig. 7. Barbed wooden arrow, Vakipungo, southwest 
Angola. Cat. No. 208607, length 83 cm. Fig. 8. 
Flat bow and arrow, Vakuanyama, Mongua. Cat. 
No. 208659, length 122 cm. Fig. 9. Arrow for shoot- 
ing lizards, Vasele. Cat. No. 208657, length 87 cm. 



96 List of Illustrations 

XVIII. Hut Furniture and Mask. Fig. 1. Wooden seat with 
hide top, Ovimbundu, Ngalangi. Cat. No. 208180, 
dimensions 53 x 28 x 30 cm. Fig. 2. Wooden stool, 
Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208864, dimensions 
29x21 cm. Fig. 3. Wooden chair with hide seat, 
Vachokue, Bailundu. Cat. No. 209006, height 80 cm. 
Fig. 4. Wooden mask, type used by Vangangella and 
Ovimbundu, Ngongo, Ngalangi. Cat. No. 208100, 
dimensions 20 x 18 cm. 

XIX. Wood-carving, Ovimbundu. Fig. 1. A hawk, Bailundu. 
Cat. No. 208386, dimensions 37x16 cm. Fig. 2. 
Crane, Bailundu. Cat. No. 208381, dimensions 
27 x 10 cm. Fig. 3. Guinea fowl, burned black and 
speckled with white paint, Elende. Cat. No. 208382, 
dimensions 20 x 8 cm. Fig. 4. Lizard, Elende. 
Cat. No. 208394, dimensions 41x6 cm. Fig. 5. 
Snake, Elende. Cat. No. 208391, length 24 cm. 

XX. Staffs of Village Chiefs. Fig. 1. Ovimbundu, Elende. 
Cat. No. 208778, length 68 cm. Fig. 2. Vachokue, 
Cangamba. Cat. No. 208775, length 82 cm. Fig. 3. 
Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208757, length 35 cm. 
Fig. 4. Vachokue, Kuchi. Cat. No. 208754, length 
98 cm. Fig. 5. Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 
208772, length 90 cm. Fig. 6. Staff of dead king 
from hut in which relics of kings are kept, from 
capital village of Ngalangi. Cat. No. 208748, length 
123 cm. Fig. 7. Club of heavy black wood, Ovim- 
bundu, Elende, workmanship of Vachokue and 
Lundatype. Cat. No. 208777, length 71 cm. Fig. 8. 
Staff of office in form of paddle, carried by headman 
of Lioko, a village of Ngalangi. Cat. No. 208745, 
dimensions 127 x 16 cm. Fig. 9. Heavy throwing- 
club for killing small game, Ovimbundu, Elende. 
Cat. No. 208767, dimensions 40 x 12 cm. Fig. 10. 
Ornamental club, Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 
208764, length 56 cm. 

XXI. Carved Human Figures. Fig. 1. Wooden figure nursed 
in place of dead twin, Ovimbundu and Vangangella, 
Ngalangi. Cat. No. 208345, length 20 cm. Fig. 2. 
Wooden figure from divination basket of medicine- 
man, Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208307, length 



List of Illustrations 97 

7 cm. Fig. 3. Wooden figure placed by anvil of 
blacksmith. Spirit in figure assists blacksmith, 
Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208339, length 36 cm. 
Fig. 4. Female wooden figure used by Vachokue 
medicine-man, Cangamba. Body hollow to contain 
medicine, head detachable. Cat. No. 208355, length 

61 cm. Fig. 5. Female wooden figure used by 
medicine-man for divining correct path on caravan 
journey, Ovimbundu, Bailundu. Cat. No. 208346, 
length 27 cm. Fig. 6. Wooden figure used like No. 1, 
Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208326, length 18 cm. 

XXII. Musical Instruments. Fig. 1. Dumb-bell basket rattle, 
Vachokue, Cangamba. Cat. No. 208732, length 
26 cm. Fig. 2. Wooden flute, Ovimbundu, Elende. 
Cat. No. 208723, length 29 cm. Fig. 3. Instrument 
played by rubbing grooves with stick, Ovimbundu, 
Elende. Cat. No. 208805, dimensions 43 x 21 cm. 
Fig. 4. Rattles for ankles, made from seed pods, 
Ovimbundu, Bailundu. Cat. No. 208730, length 
21 cm. Fig. 5. Instrument, metal keys on wooden 
board, Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208734, 
dimensions 18 x 11 cm. Fig. 6. Musical bow, Ovim- 
bundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208722, length 109 cm. 
Fig. 7. Strip of rattan. May be bent to form musical 
bow, Ovimbundu, Elende. Cat. No. 208810, length 

62 cm. Fig. 8. Frictional instrument, played like 
No. 3, Ovimbundu, Bailundu. 

XXIII. Drawings Representing Life of Ovimbundu, Elende. 

Made by untrained Ocimbundu youth, Elende, who 
had lived with Europeans. Fig. 1. Ovimbundu 
hunters. Fig. 2. Medicine-man of Ovimbundu 
divining. Fig. 3. Ocimbundu woman making beer. 
Fig. 4. Relative of deceased interrogating corpse as 
to cause of death. Chief mourners in group on left. 

XXIV. Examples of Scarification. Fig. 1. Ocimbundu woman, 

Ngalangi. Fig. 2. Vachokue woman, Cubango. Fig. 3. 
Esele woman. Cuts, made to cure pain, were rubbed 
with charred gourd. Fig. 4. Ocimbundu woman, 
Elende. Scar made at age of ten years by male 
operator, charred rubber placed in cuts. Fig. 5. Ocim- 
bundu woman, Cuma. Scars ornamental and tribal. 



98 



List of Illustrations 



XXV. Positions of Hands in Drumming, Ovimbundu, Elende. 
Front View. 

XXVI. Positions of Hands in Drumming, Ovimbundu, Elende. 
Side View. 

XXVII. Ovimbundu Drummers, Elende. Fig. 1. Long drums. 
Fig. 2. Flat drum. 

XXVIII. Ovimbundu, Elende. Fig. 1. Man carrying gourd. 
Fig. 2. Woman with field produce. 

XXIX. Agriculture near Ganda. Fig. 1. Tobacco plants on 
ant hill. Fig. 2. Clearing the bush. 

XXX. Transportation at Elende. Fig. 1. Portuguese riding 
an ox. Fig. 2. Ocimbundu carrier. 

XXXI. Transportation, Ovimbundu, Elende. Fig. 1. Boy 
carrying pig. Fig. 2. Men bearing sick man in 
hammock. 

XXXII. Ritual for Hunters. Fig. 1. Tomb near Luimbale. 
Fig. 2. Trophies near Elende. 

XXXIII. Ovimbundu Making Pottery, Elende. Fig. 1. Building 

pottery vessel. Fig. 2. Molding pot with hands and 
gourd. 

XXXIV. Ovimbundu Making Pottery, Elende. Fig. 1. Moisten- 

ing and smoothing wet pot. Fig. 2. Finished wet 
pots with incised designs. 

XXXV. Ovimbundu. Fig. 1. Man using drill, Bailundu. Fig. 2. 
Girl, Elende. 

XXXVI. Occupations of Ovimbundu, Elende. Fig. 1. Male 
cotton spinner. Fig. 2. Woman pounding maize. 

XXXVII. Blacksmiths at Work, Ovimbundu, Elende. Fig. 1. 
Working bellows. Fig. 2. Forging axhead. 

XXXVIII. Blacksmiths at Work, Ovimbundu, Elende. Fig. 1. 
Pounding on anvil. Fig. 2. Using cutting tool. 

XXXIX. Ovimbundu, Elende. Fig. 1. Hunter. Fig. 2. Woman 
making coiled basket. 

XL. Ovimbundu. Fig. 1. Flute players, Bailundu. Fig. 2. 
Bark removed for making utensils. Fig. 3. Girl, hair 
studded with brass nails. 



List of Illustrations 



99 



XLI. Ovimbundu Wood-carvers, Elende. Fig. 1. Making 
human and animal figures. Fig. 2. Carving drum. 

XLII. Ocimbundu Making Mats, Elende. Fig. 1. Tool for 
mat-making. Fig. 2. Threading reeds on tool. 

XLIII. Transportation, Ovimbundu, Elende. Fig. 1. Bridge 
across swamp and stream. Fig. 2. Carrying chickens. 

XLIV. Building Construction, Ovimbundu, Elende. Fig. 1. 
Maize bin. Fig. 2. Framework of house. 

XLV. Funeral Rites, Ovimbundu, Elende. Fig. 1. Old 
Ocimbundu questioning corpse and offering food. 
Fig. 2. Burial place of chief. 

XLVI. Funeral Rites, Ovimbundu. Fig. 1. Hut where posses- 
sions of dead chiefs are kept, Elende. Fig. 2. Horns 
of ox over grave, near Caconda. 

XLVII. Funeral Rites, Ovimbundu, Caconda. Fig. 1. Baskets 
and coffin pole on grave. Fig. 2. Hut over grave. 

XLVIII. Social Life of Ovimbundu. Fig. 1. Men's club house, 
Bailundu. Fig. 2. Guest house, Elende. 

XLIX. Physical Types, Ovimbundu, Elende. Fig. 1. Boys, 
showing tooth mutilation on left. Fig. 2. Girl 
with field basket. 

L. Ovimbundu Women and Infants, Elende. 

LI. Ovimbundu Women and Children, Elende. 

LII. Ovimbundu Youths, Elende. 

LIII. Ovimbundu Men, Elende. 

LIV. Types of Ovimbundu, Elende. Fig. 1. Negro type, 
teeth mutilated in tribal manner. Fig. 2. Modified 
Negro type. 

LV. Pigs Owned by Ovimbundu, Elende, Keltic Breed. 

LVI. Domestic Animals, Ovimbundu. Fig. 1. Sheep and 
lamb, Elende. Fig. 2. Dog, Elende. Ears clipped 
"to make him hear well." Fig. 3. Goat, Bailundu. 

LVII. Domestic Animals, Ovimbundu, Elende. Fig. 1. Cattle. 
Fig. 2. Goats. 

LVIII. Physical Types, Southwest Angola. Fig. 1. Girls of 
Luvando tribe. Fig. 2. Woman of Gambos wearing 
omba ornaments. 



100 



List of Illustrations 



LIX. Female Types, Southwest Angola. Fig. 1. Luvando 
girls near Kipungo. Fig. 2. Back view, same types. 

LX. Female Types, Southwest Angola. Fig. 1. Girls of 
Vaheneca tribe near Huila. Fig. 2. Woman of Huila. 

LXI. Female Types, Southwest Angola. Fig. 1. Women of 
Gambos. Fig. 2. Women of Humbe tribe. 

LXII. Vaheneca Girl at Huila. Fig. 1. Front view. Fig. 2. 
Back view. 

LXIII. Vakuanyama Types, Mongua, South Angola. Fig. 1. 
Man. Fig. 2. Man wearing omba shells. 

LXIV. Natives of Huila, Southwest Angola. Fig. 1. Man 
wearing forehead band and omba shell. Fig. 2. Man 
wearing beaded collar and omba shell. 

LXV. Vakuanyama Women, Mongua, South Angola. Fig. 1. 
Women wearing pleated leather skirts. Figs. 2, 3. 
Woman wearing head-dress which denotes position 
as principal wife in polygynous family. 

LXVI. Storage of Maize, Vakuanyama, South Angola. Fig. 1. 

Grain basket. Fig. 2. Shelter for basket. 
LXVII. Fig. 1. Ukuanyama Man Treading Hide for Making 
Woman's Skirt. Fig. 2. House, Vakuanyama 
Style, Dom Manuel. 

LXVIII. Tribes of South Angola. Fig. 1. Vaheneca, right and 
left; Gambos woman and children, center. Fig. 2. 
Vakuanyama men, with assagais, clubs, and bows, 
Mongua. 

LXIX. Bushman, Cassanga. Fig. 1. Front view. Fig. 2. Side 

view. 
LXX. Mussurongo Types, Malange, Northwest Angola. 
Fig. 1. Girl. Fig. 2. Man. 

LXXI. Mussurongo Woman, near Malange, Northwest 

Angola. 
LXXII. Dugout Canoes, River Kwanza, near Malange, North- 
west Angola. Fig. 1. Exteriors. Fig. 2. View of 
stern. 
LXXIII. Fishing and Hunting. Fig. 1. Fishing spear, Ambrizette, 
northwest Angola. Fig. 2. Stakes for impaling 
antelope, Vasele, west-central Angola. 



List of Illustrations 



101 



LXXIV. Fig. 1. Hunter's Tomb, Vasele. Fig. 2. Village of 
Vasele near Vila Nova de Selles. 

LXXV. Female Types of Vasele, West-central Angola. Fig. 1. 
Woman wearing nose-pin and cowrie-shell hair-band. 
Fig. 2. Woman wearing beaded head-band. Note 
scarification of forehead and cheeks. 

LXXVI. Men of Vasele, West-central Angola. Fig. 1. Man 
showing typical mutilation of teeth. Fig. 2. Man 
with scarification on chest, said to cure pain. 

LXXVII. Women in Charge of Initiation of Girls into Secret 
Society, Vanyemba Tribe, Ngongo. Fig. 1. Front 
view. Fig. 2. Back view. 

LXXVIII. Costumes Worn in Tribal Initiation Ceremonies for 
Boys. Fig. 1. Costumes of Vangangella and Ovim- 
bundu, Ngongo. Fig. 2. Ceremonial dress of mixed 
tribes at Katoko. 

LXXIX. Tribal Initiation of Boys, Vachokue, Cangamba. 
Fig. 1. Novices in enclosure. Fig. 2. Public appear- 
ance after initiation. 

LXXX. Tribal Initiation of Boys, Vachokue, Cangamba. Fig. 1. 
Fiber skirts worn by circumcised novices. Fig. 2. 
Cages in which boys lie after circumcision. 

LXXXI. Concluding Ceremonies, Tribal Initiation, Cangamba. 
Fig. 1. Stilt-walkers, Vachokue. Fig. 2. Medicine- 
man, Valuchazi. 

LXXXII. Vachokue, East Angola. Fig. 1. Medicine-man, Can- 
gamba, performing ceremony to make thief return to 
village. Fig. 2. Man at Mona Kuimbundu. 

LXXXIII. Treating Sick Woman, Vachokue, Cangamba. Fig. 1. 
Medicine-man stroking patient's spine. Fig. 2. Pre- 
paring for ablution of face. 

LXXXIV. Vachokue, Mona Kuimbundu, Northeast Angola. 
Fig. 1. Women pounding maize. Fig. 2. Dwelling. 

LXXXV. 



Vachokue Fishing 
dragging basket, 
net. 



at Cangamba. Fig. 1. Women 
Fig. 2. Man in bark canoe, holding 



102 



List of Illustrations 



LXXXVI. Vachokue, East Angola. Fig. 1. Cupping operation, 
Ngongo, Ngalangi. Fig. 2. Group at Mona Kuim- 
bundu. 

LXXXVII. Vachokue Women, East Angola. Fig. 1. Albino, 
Cangamba. Fig. 2. Group at Ngongo, Ngalangi. 

LXXXVIII. Vachokue Women, Ngongo, Ngalangi. Fig. 1. Show- 
ing mutilated teeth. Fig. 2. Showing scarification. 

LXXXIX. Fig. 1. House Where King Communes with 
Ancestral Spirits, Ngalangi. Fig. 2. House with 
Painted Walls near Bailundu. Fig. 3. Group 
Showing Mixture of Tribes, Ngalangi. 

XC. East-central Angola. Fig. 1. Woman of Vangangella, 
Cassanga. Fig. 2. Beehive, Inandongo. 

XCI. Types of Babunda, Cangamba, Showing Mutilated 
Teeth. Fig. 1. Woman. Fig. 2. Man. 

XCII. Fig. 1. Mound of Earth Where Childless Women Are 
Covered with Mud to Give Fertility, Vangangella, 
Ngalangi. Fig. 2. Trap for Leopards, Cangamba. 



PREFACE 

As leader of the Frederick H. Rawson-Field Museum Ethnological 
Expedition to West Africa I undertook research in Angola and 
Nigeria, from February, 1929, to February, 1930. The present publi- 
cation is concerned with the ethnology of Angola (Portuguese West 
Africa), where a study of the Ovimbundu and their culture contacts 
was made. 

At the outset I must express thanks to the Portuguese govern- 
ment for permission to carry on this investigation. Owing to the 
courtesy of the American Vice-Consul, Mr. Arthur F. Tower of 
Loanda, I received from the Governor General of Angola a letter of 
introduction which was of inestimable service during my journey in 
the interior. 

From Portuguese officials much help was obtained, and sound 
advice accompanied by practical assistance was always courteously 
given. 

In London I was assisted in the most cordial way by Mr. David 
Boyle, of the Cunard Steamship Lines, and Colonel B. Follett,D.S.O., 
of the Tanganyika Concessions Company. 

My base camp in Angola was pitched near the Elende Mission 
Station, where Dr. Merlin W. Ennis kindly provided safe storage 
for collections and a room for photography. Dr. Ennis was ever 
ready to discuss and aid my investigation among the Ovimbundu 
with whom he has spent thirty years. Mrs. Ennis and Miss Rounds 
aided my studies of handicraft among women. Dr. Hollenbeck gave 
valuable notes on the ailments of the Ovimbundu; these have been 
incorporated with my study of medicine-men. 

Ngonga, my interpreter and chief informant, was secured by 
Dr. Ennis to assist the investigation, and this he did with the greatest 
tact and ability. Ngonga speaks English, Portuguese, and Umbundu 
fluently. These accomplishments were so combined with a deep 
regard for the customs of his own people, the Ovimbundu, that he 
made an ideal interpreter. 

From the base at Elende three journeys were made into the 
interior. The first of these led to the far south of Angola, among the 
Vakuanyama; a second journey took me into the Vasele country of 
northwest Angola; while the third and longest itinerary led as far 
east as Cangamba, a center of Vachokue culture, thence northward 
to Saurimo in Lunda. 

103 



104 Preface 

At the end of each of these journeys, which totaled 5,000 miles, I 
returned to the base camp, developed photographs, shipped collec- 
tions, and continued my studies among the Ovimbundu. 

In the interior I received help from Mr. and Mrs. H. C. McDowell 
of Ngalangi,bothof whomgave considerable aid in investigating initia- 
tion ceremonies for boys and girls, and in securing three medicine-men 
and a rain-maker to explain their vocations. At Bailundu Mr. G. M. 
Childs obtained many valuable objects relating to the medicine-man's 
work, and the worth of these was greatly enhanced by full descrip- 
tions, and translations of the Umbundu language in which the 
explanations were given. 

Owing to the interest of Professor Edward Sapir, formerly of the 
University of Chicago, now at Yale, assistance in transcribing phono- 
graphic records of the Umbundu language was obtained. The phonetic 
transcriptions were made by Dr. M. H. Watkins and Mr. R. T. 
Clarke, whose expert aid was greatly appreciated. Records of drum 
music were transcribed by Dr. G. Herzog of the University of 
Chicago. Drawings of objects collected have been prepared by Mr. 
Carl F. Gronemann, Staff Illustrator of Field Museum. 

This recognition of cooperation would be incomplete without 
gratefully remembering my servants, who shared the fatigue and 
hazards of the journey. Abilio Esteves proved to be a thoroughly 
competent guide and adviser. The servants aided in locating cere- 
monies, acquiring objects, and dealing with the tribes among whom 

the expedition passed. 

Wilfrid Dyson Hambly 



THE OVIMBUNDU OF ANGOLA 

I. INTRODUCTION 

Research work among the Ovimbundu of Angola indicates the 
presence of numerous cultural traits revealing what are probably- 
distinct stratifications of culture. These diverse elements have been 
welded together into a pattern, the examination of which constitutes 
the present problem. 

The object of this study is an analysis of these traits with a view 
to showing the sequence in which they have been received, from 
whence they came, and the processes which have been responsible 
for coordinating them so as to form the present social system. 

My presentation passes from geographical and historical consid- 
erations to an ethnological approach, locally applied in the first place 
for complete analysis of the culture of the Ovimbundu and surround- 
ing peoples. The traits have to be considered singly and in combina- 
tion. Then follows an examination of some of these traits which 
are widely distributed outside Angola. We next seek to ascertain the 
geographical origin of traits, their history, and the psychology of their 
combinations and assimilation into an aggregate. What elements 
have been acquired through adoption? And what has been the 
historical process? Which traits have arisen through independent 
invention? What factors have been discarded, and why? To what 
extent have the Ovimbundu utilized opportunities for enriching their 
culture, and what possibilities have been neglected? 

What are the classes of evidence which might be expected to assist 
an inquiry into the growth of Umbundu culture? 

Field work was of primary importance for obtaining a first hand 
knowledge of the tribal life of the Ovimbundu as it exists today, and 
in order to estimate the effects of cultural contacts extensive journeys 
were made to the north, east, and south of the central territory occu- 
pied by the Ovimbundu. The results of personal investigation are 
given in chapters IV-IX, dealing with the economic, social, and 
religious life of the Ovimbundu. These facts have been kept free 
from the observations of other investigators whose reports are 
summarized in chapter III, "Historical Sources." 

Unfortunately there are no archaeological data which can assist 
a study of historical processes, for archaeology has not yet been 
approached in Angola. 

105 



106 The Ovimbundu 

Geographical study is valuable in showing that physical factors 
such as position, topography, soil, and climate have had not only 
a permissive but a stimulating effect on the development of certain 
cultural traits. 

Historical documents dating from the year A.D. 1500 present 
valuable evidence for tribal movements, the effect of early European 
contacts, and the existence of certain beliefs and ceremonies. The 
facts adduced in chapter III are used in chapters X-XII in discussing 
culture contacts and cultural processes. 

Inquiry respecting relationships of the Ovimbundu to other Afri- 
can tribes is aided by a study of the Umbundu language, which is 
shown to be of pure Bantu structure and vocabulary (chapter VIII). 
The characteristic features of the Umbundu language are those which 
form the basic elements of Bantu speech in general. These character- 
istics are alliterative concord (that is, repetition of the prefix before 
every word in agreement with the noun); absence of grammatical 
gender; and a position of the genitive in which the name of the thing 
possessed comes before the possessor. Umbundu, though structurally 
assignable to the Bantu group, has its own vocabulary, whose degree 
of relationship to that of surrounding peoples may to some extent be 
judged by the vocabularies of F. and W. Jaspert (Die Volkerstamme 
Mittel Angolas, Frankfort, 1930, pp. 144-150). The fact that the 
language of the Ovimbundu has become the lingua franca of Angola, 
still further testifies to the thoroughness of the contacts, which from 
historical sources are known to have been made in the period 
1500-1900. 

The spelling of proper names leaves a wide margin for individual 
preference. The Umbundu language requires "M" before "B," yet 
custom has sanctioned the form Bailundu. Nevertheless I have 
retained "N" in Ngalangi despite the form Galangi on several 
maps. Maps show great diversity of spelling, but I have adhered 
throughout to Kipungo (Quipungo) and Kwanza (Quanza). Among 
tribal names I prefer Vakuanyama to OvaKwanyama and Vachokue 
to BaKioko or BaDjokue; in making the choice I have tried to imitate 
the sounds I heard from the natives themselves. In referring to the 
papers of E. Torday, who knew the southwest Congo well and 
spoke several Congo languages fluently, I note that he sometimes 
prefers to recognize the prefix as in BaMbala and BaYaka, but he 
also writes Badjokue and Bayaka. J. H. Weeks writes Bangala 
(BaNgala). C. H. L. Hahn uses the form Ovambo (OvaMbo). 
Ovimbundu I have preferred throughout; the accent is on the 



Introduction 107 

penultimate syllable as is usual with Bantu words. The alternative 
form would be OviMbundu. Some writers hyphenate after a prefix. 
Lu is the plural prefix in the tribal names Luchazi, Luvando, Luena 
and Luimba. Ocivokue, Ocimbundu and Uluchazi are singulars. 
The word Umbundu is used adjectivally as well as for the name of 
the language. 

Observations relating to the physical appearance of the Ovim- 
bundu (chapter IV) deal with physique, dress, tooth mutilation, hair- 
dressing, scarification, and personal ornaments. The object of this 
chapter is to estimate the results of contacts so far as these affect the 
traits just mentioned. 

Of great importance in an inquiry into the growth of Umbundu 
culture is the inferential testimony to be derived from ethnological 
study of surrounding tribes. This subject is considered in chapter X, 
"Culture Contacts," with special reference to the Congo basin, 
Rhodesia, and South West Africa, concerning which there exists an 
adequate and reliable literature. 

In chapter XII, "Cultural Processes," ethnological facts derived 
from field work and historical sources have been combined with 
data relating to geography, physique, and language. This has 
been done in such a way as to present a hypothesis of cultural growth 
which is consonant with direct evidence and inferential testimony. 

Finally, personal acquaintance with the daily life of the Ovim- 
bundu is made the corner stone for behavioristic study. This is 
intended to explain the operation of social forces and controls in 
welding the tribal traits whose origin and assembly have been 
previously discussed. 

Should my colleagues of the functional school contend that my 
approach is too static in its historical and anatomical method, I 
would reply that my research does at least lay a sure ethnological 
foundation for those psychological and sociological studies which 
are today rightly regarded as essential for the adjustment of relation- 
ships between Africans and their European administrators. The 
correlation of all aspects of tribal life, including culture contacts, 
cannot be too strongly stressed. The headings chosen for chapters 
are adopted merely for convenience of presentation. But an endeavor 
has been made throughout the book, and particularly in the final 
chapter, to emphasize the coordination of economics, social organiza- 
tion, education, language, and religion. 



II. GEOGRAPHICAL FACTORS 

This chapter is intended to give an outline of the geographical 
conditions of Angola and to point out the way in which these have 
influenced the growth of Umbundu culture in all its aspects. 

A presentation of geographical data is of primary importance here, 
and the actual relationship between the facts of geography and 
culture is a matter for gradual evaluation in the following chapters. 
The extent to which geographic determinism has entered into the 
cultural growth of the Ovimbundu is particularly well seen in chapter 
V, "Economic Life," which deals with industries, agriculture, domes- 
tic animals, fishing, and transport. 

The area of Angola is a factor of importance, for the greater the 
extent of any country the more diversified will be the products and 
the cultural differences. This is particularly true if there are consider- 
able differences in the elevation, because altitude modifies temperature 
and affects the distribution of rainfall. 

Angola has an area of almost 500,000 square miles. The greatest 
length is a distance of about 900 miles from the river Congo in the 
north to the region of South West Africa. The greatest breadth is 
about 700 miles from the Atlantic Ocean on the west to the borders 
of the Rhodesian plateau in the east. This range over twelve degrees 
of latitude, from 5° S. to 17° S., in association with differences in 
altitude, have produced ecological regions which are described in 
the following paragraphs. 

The northern part of Angola is ecologically a part of the Congo 
basin, with conditions of heat and moisture giving rise to a dense 
tropical flora. Owing to the presence of tsetse fly, the great heat, 
and the lack of open grasslands, such country is unsuited for the 
rearing of cattle, while agriculture, including cultivation of maize, is 
restricted to forest clearings. Manioc, palm trees, peanuts, and 
sweet potatoes are the chief products serviceable to man. This region 
was, according to the historical evidence of chapter III, the area in 
which the Ovimbundu moved before they entered the Benguela High- 
lands of central Angola. Parts of chapters III and X ("Historical 
Sources" and "Culture Contacts," respectively) are devoted to an 
analysis of the cultural factors of the Congo area from the year 
a.d. 1500 to the present day. 

The central portion of Angola is the area most important in this 
research because it is the home of the Ovimbundu, whose cultural 

108 



Geographical Factors 109 

growth is under examination. This central plateau, the Benguela 
Highlands, rises in places to a height of 6,000 feet, an altitude which 
reduces the heat of the tropics and so modifies the flora, discouraging 
some types of vegetation and encouraging others. Hostility of the 
highlands to palm trees and the banana is appropriately discussed 
when dealing with cultural losses; while the fostering effect of reduced 
temperature and the presence of wide expanses of open country on 
the growth of maize and the keeping of cattle is a cultural gain. 

The prevailing rains of Angola are from the northeast to the 
southwest; consequently the high plateau intercepts rain clouds which 
give an annual fall of sixty inches. This adequate rainfall is another 
factor which has affected economic life, density of population, com- 
munal welfare, and powers of expansion. 

The villages of the Ovimbundu are built on hillsides having a 
commanding view of the surrounding country. There is in the 
nature of the land a natural protection from enemies. In addition 
to this the Benguela Highlands are an admirable base from which 
expeditions both predatory and commercial might, and actually did 
set out eastward to the interior of Africa, and southwest to the 
cattle-keeping country. 

It is important to note that this central plateau is the watershed 
for four large river systems; the Kwanza to the northwest; the Cunene 
to the southwest; the tributaries of the Kasai to the northeast; and 
the Zambezi and its affluents to the southeast. Fishing, with attend- 
ant beliefs of a ritualistic kind, is of local importance; so also is the 
making of canoes. Moreover, the river valleys have marked out a 
natural means of communication in several directions. 

In connection with the river system the biological factor of the 
tsetse fly is important, because the presence of the fly locally dis- 
courages human habitation and prevents the keeping of cattle. The 
exact distribution of the fly is imperfectly known, but Glossinia 
palpalis, the cause of sleeping sickness in human beings, also Glos- 
sinia morsitans, which carries disease to cattle, are both present along 
the Kwanza and parts of the other rivers (J. C. B. Statham, Through 
Angola, p. 294). 

The western coastal strip is a region of great aridity which has in 
some years no rainfall whatever, because the northeasterly rains have 
expended themselves on the high plateau. This region displays 
vegetation of the semi-desert type; namely, baobab trees, prickly 
acacias, euphorbias, and aloes. Population in this area is sparse, 
always nomadic, and in some places non-existent. The coastal strip 



110 The Ovimbundu 

was at times traversed by the Ovimbundu who know of the sea and 
call it kalunga. Bihean caravans crossed to the coast with slaves, 
as history shows, but the nature of the coastal strip marks it as a 
western barrier limiting the expansion of the Ovimbundu in that 
direction. The coast line itself is of the greatest moment in the 
consideration of historical factors. From Loanda, Benguela, and 
Mossamedes on the coast, the Portuguese penetrated the interior, so 
making contacts with the Ovimbundu to the encouragement of 
caravan trade. The importance of this European contact will be 
seen in subsequent chapters. 

The south and southwest parts of Angola are of particular impor- 
tance in studying the contacts of the Ovimbundu, but to give here the 
details of the wealthy cattle-keeping culture of these regions, which 
were accessible through peaceful proximity, trade, and occasional 
raiding, would be an anticipation of chapter X, "Culture Contacts." 
One topographical point is of primary importance; namely, the ease 
with which the Ovimbundu could descend from their strongholds to 
the low-lying land of the west and south, whereas the reverse journey 
is much more difficult for a people unaccustomed to manoeuvring 
and finding their way among hills. 

Having described the northern, central, western, and southern 
areas, there remains only the eastern section to consider; this presents 
several features of peculiar geographical and ethnological interest. 
The eastern section of Angola is either slightly undulating or flat, 
the general characteristic is dryness, and vegetation is somewhat 
sparse though sufficient to shelter many kinds of antelope. 

The major population is the Vachokue, a warlike, hunting people, 
who follow agricultural pursuits but slightly, and do not keep cattle. 
Examination of the literature describing early exploration indicates 
the truculent nature of these eastern people with whom caravans of 
Ovimbundu were in frequent conflict. Umbundu caravans crossed 
this country when making their way to Rhodesia, culture contacts 
with which are discussed in chapter X. 

The results of contact of Ovimbundu and Vachokue tribes, so far 
as physical miscegenation is concerned, are mentioned in chapter IV, 
"Physical Appearance"; while the social effects of slavery resulting 
from hostilities are described in chapter VI, "Social Life." 

Rhodesia is a cattle-raising country, but the hostility of the 
Vachokue, the great distance from central Angola to Rhodesia, and 
the general dryness of the country to be crossed, discourage the idea 
that the Ovimbundu obtained their cattle from Rhodesia. If it is 



Geographical Factors 111 

argued that the cattle might have been brought along the course of 
the Zambezi and Kwando there is the objection that there are here 
several tsetse fly belts. On the contrary, cattle-producing country 
in the southwest and south of Angola is far more accessible than the 
Rhodesian plateau. 

In the south there is the cultural habit of digging wells, especially 
among the Vakuanyama; but the Vachokue have not developed this 
trait. The substrata underlying the sand of southern Angola hold 
water which serves through the dry season, a fact which is advanta- 
geously employed by the cattle-keepers. The Vachokue lack this 
well-digging habit, and, even if subsurface water were present, the 
transient Ovimbundu would have lacked opportunity to dig for it 
when passing through hostile country. 

The acquisition of cattle by the Ovimbundu is of great impor- 
tance, because it is concerned with the grafting of a series of pastoral 
traits on a culture in no way originally associated with pastoral 
pursuits. The truth of this will later be made clear by examination 
of historical and ethnological evidence. 

Geographical considerations give a picture of the Ovimbundu 
situated in naturally fortified country from which they had access to 
four surrounding areas, whose cultural characters agree well with the 
determinism of topography and climate. The natural advantages of 
the central highlands, and the results of contact with each of the 
adjacent areas, are points which will be developed in appropriate 
sections throughout the ensuing chapters. 



III. HISTORICAL SOURCES 

The object of this chapter is the presentation of a summary of 
literature relating to Angola from a.d. 1500 down to the present 
day. In this literature there may be accounts of the movements of 
tribes which will throw some light on the origin of the Ovimbundu, 
and the date of their migration into the Benguela Highlands. Present- 
day tradition of the Ovimbundu is unanimous in declaring that the 
tribe came from the northeast of its present locality, but some 
historical justification of this belief is desirable. The word Ovim- 
bundu ("people of the fog") may refer to the heavy morning mists 
of highland regions, and there is the possibility that the Ovimbundu 
adopted this name when they settled on the high plateau. 

If there is historical evidence in favor of the traditional home of 
the Ovimbundu being the region of the north and northeast of Angola, 
what was the ethnological background of these areas at the time when 
the Ovimbundu became detached from a matrix of northern Angolan 
tribes? In other words, what cultural factors are the Ovimbundu 
likely to have brought with them into the Benguela Highlands? The 
ultimate origin of these factors is a point which has not been neg- 
lected (chapter XI, "Wider Culture Contacts"), but for the moment 
the primary concern is the historical background of the Ovimbundu, 
with special reference to tribal movements and cultural traits. 

As part of this historical inquiry, contacts of the Portuguese and 
the Ovimbundu are of importance. When and where did the Portu- 
guese come into contact with the Ovimbundu and with what results 
to the indigenous culture? 

Chapters IV-IX deal exclusively with my field work among the 
Ovimbundu in 1929. Therefore it is pertinent to ask to what extent 
the ethnological observations of travelers and early explorers will 
corroborate the information recorded in my own notes. Will there 
be contradiction or confirmation of personal observations? Possibly 
the ethnological notes obtained from historical sources will serve, not 
merely to corroborate my field work, but actually to extend the area 
of occurrence of important cultural traits which I noted in 1929. 

The literature describing Angolan history and customs is here 
presented in the form of a chronological bibliography, which is 
annotated so as to emphasize points bearing on the purpose of this 
historical analysis. That there should be a fragmentary presentation 
of data is an inevitable consequence of the nature of the literature 

112 



Historical Sources 113 

itself. Observations have been made, not in a well-ordered time 
sequence, but at irregular intervals. Moreover, the writings of the 
majority of observers have not been undertaken with any specific 
ethnological purpose in view. Early explorers in particular were 
prone to intersperse historical and ethnological notes among a mass 
of descriptive material relating to incidents of travel, animal life, 
and meteorological observations. 

At the conclusion of this chapter an effort is made to remedy the 
disjointed nature of the historical evidence. This object is achieved 
by summarizing the points which provide an answer to the queries 
brought forward in the opening paragraphs of this chapter respecting 
the origin and cultural background of the Ovimbundu. 

The Portuguese entered the Congo in 1482 under the leadership 
of Diego Cao (E. G. Ravenstein, The Voyages of Diego Cao, Geog. 
Journ., 1900, pp. 625-649) and from that time onward Portuguese 
influence of a political and religious kind was exerted along the 
course of the Congo. Gradually the Portuguese established them- 
selves on the coast of Angola. Paolo Diaz founded Loanda in 1576, 
and about eleven years later built the fort of Benguela. 

The year 1590 saw the Portuguese making war in the interior of 
Angola against the Jaggas, a northern tribe among whom Andrew 
Battell was held in honorable captivity as a leader against the Portu- 
guese and all natives of northern Angola, who were exploited by the 
Jaggas. In 1645 another Portuguese punitive expedition penetrated 
the interior as far as Bailundu, the center from which the strongest 
caravans of Umbundu traders and slavers set out for central Africa. 

Caconda in the southwest of Angola was founded in 1682, and a 
century later the coastal town of Mossamedes became a starting point 
from which early exploration penetrated the interior in search of the 
sources of the Cunene River. (For the details of Portuguese pene- 
tration of Angola see Bibliography: T. E. Bowditch; R. F. Burton; 
E. G. Ravenstein; T. Lewis.) 

When the Portuguese landed at the mouth of the Congo at the 
close of the fifteenth century they came into contact with the kingdom 
of Congo, ruled with great pomp and ceremony at Ambassa, about 
150 miles inland, and identical with the San Salvador of the Portu- 
guese. The old kingdom of Congo was made up of six strong clans 
of whose rivalry the Portuguese took advantage to strengthen their 
own commercial and political position. The slave trade was con- 
sidered to be as respectable as it was lucrative, and there is no doubt 



114 The Ovimbundu 

that the Church participated actively (T. Lewis, The Old 
Kingdom of Kongo, Geog. Journ., 1908, pp. 598-600). 

Political influence of the Portuguese, working often through the 
agency of Jesuit priests, led to factions within the Congo Empire, 
and the resulting disturbances caused movements of peoples that 
affected the whole of northern Angola and the population of the 
Benguela Highlands. 

Portuguese penetration of the hinterland of Angola, especially 
from Loanda to Bih£, was concerned with attempts to subjugate 
native tribes, the establishment of trading posts, and the encourage- 
ment of the slave trade (S. Marquardsen, Angola, 1928, pp. 6-10). 

The value of the Portuguese as allies of Umbundu caravans from 
Bine" lay in their ability to supply guns and powder to their native 
henchmen, who gave something more than military service in return. 
In response to Portuguese demand for slaves and ivory, Umbundu 
caravans made long journeys into the Congo basin, Rhodesia, south 
and southwest Angola, and possibly across Africa to lakes Tanganyika 
and Nyasa. The arms supplied in exchange for ivory and slaves must 
have helped the Ovimbundu in all their predatory excursions. 

Thus the Ovimbundu were, in the early centuries of contact with 
the Portuguese, invaders encouraged in the building up of their 
tribal life and resources. Never were the Portuguese strong enough 
completely to subjugate northern Angola. Relationships with 
natives, especially the Bihean section of the Ovimbundu, were 
directed toward alliances on a commercial basis. The political result 
of this was a combination of the Portuguese and the stronger tribes 
for the exploitation of the weaker. 

The historical ethnology of the southwest Congo is so complex 
that the elements are difficult to disentangle. The number of tribes 
concerned is great, and their movements are not easy to follow; but 
a gradual extension of people from the Congo in a southwesterly 
direction through Lunda to the Benguela Highlands (1600-1800) 
seems to be the summation of all the conflict. I regard the Ovim- 
bundu as the most southerly branch of these mass movements, during 
which they received a discipline that enabled them to make their 
home in central Angola, despite opposition from the Portuguese 
and earlier arrivals. 

For these conclusions reliance has been placed on the extensive 
field work and historical analyses of E.Torday and T. A. Joyce, whose 
"Notes on the Ethnography of the Bambala" (J.R.A.I., XXXV, pp. 
398-426) have proved of particular value in this connection. 



Historical Sources 115 

The kernel of the migratory problem of the Ovimbundu is reached 
when Torday traces out the history of the Kimbundu, for the Kim- 
bundu are present-day neighbors of the Ovimbundu, to whom they 
are closely allied in language and culture (ovi is a Bantu plural prefix, 
which was perhaps used to express the inclusion of Kimbundu and 
Babunda under the general name Ovimbundu). 

Torday's sifting of the historical evidence results in the conclusion 
that the Kimbundu came from the northeast, fighting their way to 
the Luando. These Kimbundu divided, with civil war as a conse- 
quence. One section crossed the river Kwanza, south of which they 
specialized in agriculture after becoming sedentary. Their sub-chief 
they called the Kalunga, which is the present-day word used by the 
Ovimbundu in greeting their chiefs. Traditions of the Ovimbundu 
point to the northeast as a center from which they spread at least 
ten generations ago. The rise of the powerful kingdom of Lunda 
dates from the seventeenth century, and although the details of this 
concentration of power in northeast Angola are unknown the general 
effects are understood. There was a great displacement of tribes in a 
southerly and southwesterly direction. In connection with the 
suggestion that the Ovimbundu came from the northeast of Angola, 
there is the necessity for recording the absence of even a fragment 
of historical evidence or tribal tradition indicating that the Ovim- 
bundu came from the south or the east of Angola. 

Cultural affinities of the Ovimbundu with tribes of the southwest 
Congo in particular, and with western Bantu culture in general, 
strongly support the foregoing deductions from historical sources 
(chapter X). 

There is a probability that tribal disturbances resulting from the 
rise of the Lunda Empire led to a spread of the Vachokue over eastern 
Angola. Some of the effects of this contact have already been 
mentioned in chapter II, where contacts of the Ovimbundu and the 
Vachokue were discussed. The journey brought me into contact with 
the Vachokue at Cangamba, Katoko, and Ngalangi, of which 
Cangamba is the most easterly. 

Witnessing of initiation ceremonies combined with observation of 
physique, language, and artifacts, leads me to agree with Torday that 
Cangamba is probably the ancient center of Vachokue culture. As 
one proceeds from Cangamba westward this type of culture becomes 
thinner as the borders of the country occupied by the Ovimbundu 
are approached. On the border line between the cultures of the 
Vachokue and the Ovimbundu, notably at Ngongo near Ngalangi, 



116 The Ovimbundu 

there is tribal and cultural miscegenation. Both Umbundu and 
Vachokue languages are spoken; boys of Ngalangi were seen to wear 
initiation costumes similar to those worn at Cangamba by the 
Vachokue, but on proceeding farther westward into territory 
exclusively occupied by the Ovimbundu, such initiation ceremonies 
are either absent or attenuated in ritual. 

Elende, one center of research among the Ovimbundu, repre- 
sents the purest Umbundu speech and culture observable at the 
present day. But in chapter IV some physical resemblance of the 
Ovimbundu to the Vachokue is noted. Warfare commonly resulted 
in the taking of slaves, a fact which might account for an apparent 
infusion of Vachokue blood in some of the Ovimbundu. 

The historical data suggest a northern or northeastern starting 
point of Umbundu migrations. Therefore an inquiry into the 
ethnology of these areas will be useful in showing the kind of culture 
with which the Ovimbundu were in contact before their settlement 
in the Benguela Highlands. If historical sources disclose the nature 
of northern Angolan culture from the year a.d. 1500 onward, such 
evidence can then be considered in relation to cultural traits of the 
Ovimbundu at the present day. 

The establishment of strong cultural resemblances between extant 
Umbundu culture and older cultural patterns of northern Angola, 
would tend to strengthen the evidence of history respecting the 
northern origin of the Ovimbundu. 

The regions dealt with in the following summary of ethnological 
facts are the Cabinda Enclave to the north of the Congo estuary, 
the region of San Salvador, the hinterlands of Loanda and Benguela, 
and the area of northern Angola between Lat. 7° and 9° S. and 
Long. 13° to 22° E. This covers the whole area with which the 
Ovimbundu are likely to have been in contact before entering their 
present home. 

My survey begins with the observations of Andrew Battell in 
1596. His account deals mainly with the northwestern part of 
Angola, a country bordering on and actually including territory now 
occupied by the Ovimbundu, who in all probability came in contact 
with the Jaggas, whose habits of life are described by Battell. 

Tordayand Joyceidentify the Jaggas with the present-day Bayaka, 
whose cultural resemblances to the Ovimbundu are examined later. 
In my opinion, the Jaggas correspond well with the Bihean section 
of the Ovimbundu, an itinerant and exceedingly warlike people. 



Historical Sources 117 

As early as 1600 there were cattle as far north as Benguela, and 
the Jaggas regarded these as a most valuable part of their plunder. 
Palms are a characteristic part of the vegetation of Angola north of 
the Benguela Highlands. Evidently the Jaggas moved extensively 
in northern Angola because they cut down palms for making wine 
(Battell, p. 30). The usual method is to tap the top of a standing 
tree, but the Jaggas were an itinerant people who did not culti- 
vate palms. 

Sprinkling the blood of sacrificed animals on a newly kindled fire 
I have mentioned in connection with Umbundu rites celebrating the 
founding of a new village. The Jaggas carried out this ceremony 
before a raiding expedition, when cows and other animals were 
sacrificed (Battell, p. 33). Battell mentions the use of red tukula 
wood for personal decoration. This wood (Pterocarpus tinctorius) 
is used in many parts of Angola at the present time. 

Reference to Battell confirms the information given to me in 
relation to an old iron gong obtained at Ngalangi. He says (p. 20), 
"The general did strike his gong, which is an instrument of war that 
soundeth like a bell, and presently made an oration with a loud 
voice." 

Battell reported that the Jaggas wore beads of ostrich eggshell. 
Ravenstein, the editor of this volume in the Hakluyt Series, seems 
to doubt this statement, saying, "There are no ostriches in Angola, 
and as to beads made of ostrich eggs I can give no explanation." 
I noted the presence of captive ostriches in southern Angola as far 
north as Gambos. The Vakuanyama women greatly value their long 
necklaces of ostrich-eggshell beads. Necklaces made in the north of 
Angola are traded to the south and conversely, each kind of necklace 
having a high value due to remoteness of origin. This instance, like 
many other points, confirms the reliability of Battell's observations 
in Angola. 

Father Jerome Merolla (1682) describes the poison ordeal which 
was used from the Congo estuary to San Salvador (Churchills' 
Voyages, II, p. 675). "The aforesaid oath is administered to the 
supposed traitor by a sort of wizard, who, making a certain composi- 
tion out of the juices of herbs, serpent's flesh, pulp of fruits, and 
divers other things, gives it to the supposed delinquent to drink. If 
guilty (as they tell you) he will immediately fall down in a swoon 
or trembling to the ground." The marimba was used, and a double 
iron gong was carried before a chief and struck by an attendant. 



118 The Ovimbundu 

0. Dapper (Description de l'Afrique, 1732, p. 369) shows a scene 
in which an ax, such as I obtained from the Vasele country, is being 
used for beheading a slave. 

Cavazzi (Istorica descrizione, etc., Bologna, 1687) describes the 
three kingdoms of Congo, Matamba, and northern Angola. The 
poison ordeal, the scapegoat, the blacksmith's bellows (pp. 101, 170) 
are all traits known to the Ovimbundu. The musical instrument 
made from a large gourd, which has a ridged board attached for 
rubbing with a stick, is the type I collected. Cavazzi pictures the 
double iron gong and the long drum held between the knees. He 
also shows a rain-maker (p. 214) and the sacrifice of two hundred 
victims at the accession of a king (p. 210). 

Consideration of the history of maize in Africa is of importance 
in connection with these early writings, as this grain is the staple 
agricultural product of the Ovimbundu. I am indebted to Dr. 
Berthold Laufer for access to his unpublished research on this subject. 
From the following facts one may assume that, in all probability, 
the maize culture of the Ovimbundu was derived from the Congo 
region before their migration into the Benguela Highlands. 

Father Jerome Merolla remarks that maize was growing in the 
neighborhood of San Salvador (1683-92). The native names were 
mampunni and massambuta; from this corn an alcoholic beverage was 
prepared. According to Cavazzi (Ehrmann, Geschichte der merk- 
wiirdigsten Reisen, XIII, 1794) maize was not intensively cultivated 
by the Negroes of lower Guinea, though it thrives well and may be 
harvested twice or thrice a year. The natives said that the grain 
was brought by the Portuguese, but they did not esteem it highly, 
and were accustomed to use it as food for pigs. 

Bosman (p. 312) records that prior to the arrival of the Portu- 
guese, Negroes were entirely ignorant of milho ("maize"). The 
account of Duarte Lopez preserved by Filippo Pigafetta states that 
the Negroes consider maize the vilest of all grains, so that it is 
given to swine. This contempt and lack of knowledge of the food 
value, combined with ignorance of methods of preparation, suggest 
a recent introduction (Pigafetta, translation by M. Hutchinson, 
1881, p. 40). Dapper (Description de l'Afrique, 1732, p. 345) also 
mentions the cultivation of maize. Battell lived as prisoner in 
northern Angola about the year 1600, consequently his records of 
the use of the great Guinea wheat (maize), which the natives call 
mas-importo, give early evidence for the use of this grain (Hakluyt 
Soc, 1901, pp. 9, 11, 67). 



Historical Sources 119 

The foregoing facts, when compared with field work among the 
Ovimbundu, indicate that the old culture of the Congo and northern 
Angola bears a strong resemblance to Umbundu culture at the 
present day. A more detailed analysis of this resemblance is made 
in chapter X. 

The following notes dealing with exploration in Angola (1800- 
1930) are adduced for critical comparison with my own observations 
among the Ovimbundu. 

The work of Sir R. F. Burton describing the exploration of Lacerda 
and other Portuguese pioneers, is more useful for geographical than 
for ethnological information. Lacerda's journey to Czambe, south 
of Lake Moero, was performed in 1798. A mention of veneration 
for the dead and consultation of the deceased on all occasions of 
war or of good fortune, is made (p. 127). These are important points 
in the present tribal life of the Ovimbundu. 

Bowditch (1824) writes from information given to him by Almeida 
and Saldanha. There are valuable references to the Vacilenge, a 
people adjacent to the Ovimbundu, who refused to kill their cattle, 
"rather than do which they will endure famine to extremity." This 
note was made about Long. 15° E. and Lat. 15° S. (p. 34). The 
cattle were milked, and cattle-raiding by the Ovimbundu was 
common at this time. Many present-day Ovimbundu do not milk 
their cattle, but the Vacilenge still follow their milking custom 
observed before 1824. 

Livingstone's journey through northeast and northern Angola in 
1853 contains references to the Vachokue who seemed bent on plun- 
der (I, p. 370). Livingstone noted cotton spinning, which I recorded 
as an occupation of males of the Ovimbundu at Elende. Livingstone, 
like other early travelers, encountered caravans of Biheans (Ovim- 
bundu) bearing elephants' tusks and beeswax, commodities, which, 
along with slaves, formed the chief merchandise of these caravans 
from the Benguela Highlands (p. 466). Livingstone notes and 
sketches (Plate XIII, Fig. 10) the double-handled hoe (p. 442) which 
is still used. 

J. J. Monteiro (I, p. 61) saw the poison ordeal administered. The 
poison itself was prepared from the thick hard bark of a large tree 
(Erythrophlaeum guineense). The place of observation was Mongue 
Grande, just south of the Congo estuary, and again Monteiro was 
present when the poison cup was given to two women at Ambrizette. 
Of this ordeal there is more to be said when discussing the culture 
contacts of the Ovimbundu, because the ordeal is a basic factor of 



120 The Ovimbundu 

wide distribution in Africa (C. Wiedemann, 1909) and the ceremony- 
still survives among the Ovimbundu in modified form. 

Though an informative writer, Monteiro is sometimes vague; he 
says (I, p. 278) that circumcision is a universal custom among the 
blacks of Angola. In view of the extent of Angola, the diversity of 
tribes, and the fact that Monteiro traveled over only a small part of 
the country, this information is misleading. 

Monteiro is the only writer in whose works I have found a 
reference to the Vasele tribe; probably no part of Angola has been 
so neglected as the Esele country in the hinterland of Novo Redondo. 
At the present day the Vasele have a reputation for cannibalism. 
Monteiro saw human flesh eaten at Cuacra, while the skulls of the 
victims were placed on adjacent trees. Monteiro states (II, p. 167) 
that on the death of a king the Mucelis (Vasele) put out all the fires 
in the kingdom; these were relighted by the succeeding king who 
used fire produced by rubbing two sticks together. The flat beads 
of shell called dongos, made from Achatina monetaria (II, p. 168), 
are made today and traded to the far south of Angola, where their 
novelty assures them a value far beyond their intrinsic worth. I was 
fortunate in obtaining an example of the old beheading ax mentioned 
by Monteiro (II, p. 157) and sketched by Cavazzi (p. 210). Par- 
boiled and roasted rats were offered to me as food; Monteiro mentions 
the offering of a roasted rat on a skewer (I, p. 99). 

The account of Commander V. L. Cameron, who left Zanzibar 
for his journey across Africa in 1873, mentions several points of 
anthropological importance in relation to the Angolan section of his 
journey. Cameron saw a net-covered medicine-man of the Kibokue 
(Vachokue) wearing a mask and a kilt of grass (p. 384). The function 
of this man was to frighten devils from the woods. The contest in 
which boys discharge their arrows at a rolling root was seen by 
Cameron near Kagnombe (Cangamba?). Skulls of victims killed in 
war were spiked on poles (p. 399). The diviner was followed by 
attendants who struck iron gongs, while the diviner himself shook a 
rattle made of basket-work in the form of a dumb-bell (p. 404). 
Cameron gives an accurate description of the divination basket and 
its use without going into details. These I have been able to supply 
(chapter IX). The explorer met caravans of Biheans, renowned 
carriers then as they are today. They were usually drunk and 
abusive; in some instances they attempted to rob the stragglers. 
The use of caterpillars as food is noted (p. 416) : "A man cut open 



Historical Sources 121 

a large cocoon, extracted the contents, and smacked his lips with 
great gusto." My field notes mention the use of caterpillars as food. 

Capello and Ivens (1877-80) remark on the burial places of 
hunters which are distinguishable by the skulls of antelopes, buffalo, 
and hippopotamuses, stuck on upright poles, mixed with skulls of 
oxen killed in honor of the defunct. The writers noted that a heap of 
stones protected the body. I photographed two types of cairn in the 
regions of Ganda and Luimbale respectively. Capello and Ivens are 
not precise in their locality, but I judge it to have been Long. 17° E. 
and Lat. 13° S., a considerable distance from my own observations 
(Plates XXXII, Fig. 1; LXXIV, Fig. 1). 

I photographed the stilt-walkers at the final stages of the initiation 
ceremonies at Cangamba. These men had no costumes; on the 
contrary they were almost naked but were covered with white clay. 
Capello and Ivens (p. 295), saw a stilt-walker with a feathered mask 
and a netting costume. Such attire I saw on an Uluchazi medicine- 
man, but not on the stilt-walkers (Plate LXXXI, Figs. 1, 2). 

I was unable to obtain information about the stilt-walkers, but 
Capello states that they castigated misdemeanants, punished shame- 
less women, and accused criminals. Capello and Ivens were 187 
miles to the northwest of my area of observation. The Uluchazi 
medicine-man, who appeared with the stilt-walkers during my visits, 
was said to make bad magic for women. The men ignored him but 
women gathered round in a derisive way; they quickly scattered 
when he pursued them. 

Serpa Pinto, who made his journey across Angola in 1878, has 
so many references to customs and objects still extant, that I propose 
to tabulate his observations because of their value in showing the 
preservation of indigenous traits in spite of Portuguese contacts. 

The body of a chief is buried with a covering of oxhide. Many 
oxen are sacrificed at the death of a king. The heir to the deceased 
is bound to sacrifice his whole herd in order to regale his people and 
give peace to the departed (S. Pinto, I, p. 63). The Ovimbundu 
conform at the present time to similar methods of burial and sacrifice. 

Near Huambo, Serpa Pinto saw in every village a kind of "temple 
for conversation." This is the onjango, that I have described and 
photographed (Plate XLVIII, Fig. 1). It is the house in which all 
males foregather for the evening meal, which is brought by their 
women (I, p. 96). 

The gathering and eating of caterpillars is described. This con- 
tinues today (I, p. 120). 



122 The Ovimbundu 

Serpa Pinto saw shafts for the working of iron ore in the neighbor- 
hood of Cubango. The ore was mixed with charcoal and smelted in 
shallow pits. It is stated that the iron was sometimes tempered 
with ox-grease and salt. The bellows are of the type made at Elende 
(I, p. 128). Of the tempering process I have no confirmation. 

Somewhere near Bih£ Serpa Pinto saw the ceremony of question- 
ing a corpse which was made to sway to and fro, the people believing 
all the while that it does so without human intervention. The 
diviner declared that the soul of a dead person will tell who caused 
the death (I, p. 130). I observed and photographed this ceremony 
(Plate XLV, Fig. 1). 

The ordeal of the poison cup is described; blood-letting, and 
divination by shaking articles in a basket are also mentioned. Pinto 
says that in the articles that appear uppermost the diviner reads what 
his hearers are desirous of learning of the past, present, or future. 
Sorcery and rain-making are likewise briefly mentioned (I, p. 132). 
The divination basket, the poison ordeal, and rain-making, are 
Umbundu cultural traits today. 

Here Pinto illustrates the existing practice of mounting the 
skulls of animals killed by a hunter on a pole in the village. There 
is a further reference to this custom among the Ambuellas (I, p. 333). 
These instances, combined with those personally noted, give a wide 
distribution for the practice (I, p. 177). 

Pinto saw the operation of tooth mutilation among the Luimba. 
The operation was performed with a knife which was struck by 
repeated light blows (I, p. 209). 

Pinto illustrates arrowheads in use in 1879 (I, pp. 277, 346). 
These are exactly the same as those made and used in 1929 (Plate 
XVII, Figs. 1-9). 

Axes used by the Luchazi are sketched with a detail that shows 
the old forms to persist without alteration (II, p. 36). 

Water-pipes made from horns and gourds by the Luina of eastern 
Angola are of the forms now used in that region, also by the Ovim- 
bundu of the present day (II, pp. 33, 37). 

For use in checking and supplementing my observations Serpa 
Pinto's book was found to be of the greatest service, though the 
precise locality was sometimes difficult to identify. This explorer, in 
common with others, scattered his ethnological observations among 
descriptions of the route and botanical, zoological, and other notes. 

Lux traveled from Loanda due east, following the Kwanza on the 
northern bank between 9° and 10° S. Lat., and so into Lunda. 



Historical Sources 123 

He draws the crescentic arrowhead (p. 123) still common among 
the Ovimbundu and Vachokue; the double iron gong (p. 122); and 
the musical bow, which he calls a viola (p. 121). 

Sogaur states that iron-working had an advanced technique at 
Dindo, more than half a century ago. According to Sogaur, the 
blacksmith was using scrap iron from European sources (II, p. 14). 

Perhaps the most valuable of Chatelain's books is "Fifty Folk 
Tales of Angola." The stories are accompanied by translations and 
ethnological notes, the most important of which are references to the 
carrying of a corpse on a pole; the building of a cairn of stones over 
the corpse of a hunter; matrilineal descent and the power of the 
maternal uncle over the persons of his nieces and nephews (sisters' 
children). My observations included some details respecting the 
pawning of a sister's children to redeem the debts of their mother's 
brother. Chatelain adds that sisters' children are successors to 
private property and chieftainship (pp. 8-10). My notes agree that 
property is inherited by children of a deceased man's sister, but my 
informants said that a new chieftain is normally the eldest son of the 
principal wife of the dead chief. Chatelain's folklore stories, fifty in 
number, relate chiefly to animals; this was the only kind of story 
told to me, but W. C. Bell has recorded a few tales of another type. 

Marquardsen (1928) devotes only one-fourth of his book to the 
ethnology of Angola, which he treats in a very general way; there is 
no section dealing specifically with any particular tribe. The author 
calls attention to Chapman's observation of rock paintings of South 
African Bushman type, between Cuma and Luimbale in northwest 
Angola. I have elsewhere remarked on the occasional occurrence of 
physical types which show a strain of Bushman blood. Today 
Bushmen penetrate southern Angola from the Kalahari (Plate LXIX, 
Figs. 1, 2), but their presence in times past or present does not affect 
the course of history or the data of ethnology to an appreciable extent. 

Marquardsen gives some notes of a general kind on Vaheneca, 
Mahuila and other tribes of southwest Angola. The suggestion is 
feasible that the Umbundu name Suku, for a supreme being, is the 
same as the Nzambi of Lunda and the Congo. Marquardsen refers 
to the importance of the maternal uncle in Umbundu society, to the 
poison ordeal, and to the burial of an Umbundu chief in oxhide, all 
of which points were recorded in my observations at Elende. 

Ferreira Diniz's book is unobtainable, but, judging from the sum- 
mary given in Anthropos (XX, 1925, pp. 321-331), the information 
was collected by a questionnaire widely distributed among adminis- 



124 The Ovimbundu 

trative posts. I agree that people between Caconda and Huila 
represent a racial mixture of the Ovimbundu and the Ovambo. The 
record speaks of painting-houses for girls at Cabinda, an item which 
agrees with reports from other sources. The jottings concerning 
tribes from Cabinda to the far south of Angola are too vague to be 
used in ethnological work with confidence. 

There are many points on which the work of A. Schachtzabel 
should be consulted for the purpose of making comparisons with my 
own observations. The chief of these are a note and photograph on 
village construction (p. 130); the musical bow (p. 32); the loom 
(plate VI) ; transmigration of the soul of a chief into an animal (p. 51) ; 
and the game of mancala (p. 52). My observations of initiation at 
Katoko, Ngalangi, and Cangamba agree well with that of Schacht- 
zabel at Katoko, but I was able to obtain more detail and more 
numerous photographs of the ritual of initiation. The spinning of 
cotton (p. 143) is exactly the process so frequently witnessed now at 
Elende. Iron-working (p. Ill) appears to be comparable with the 
technique at Elende, but Schachtzabel seems to have missed the 
ritual. I was not so fortunate as this author in finding the old type 
of iron-smelting furnace in use. 

The work of Statham is devoted primarily to hunting and descrip- 
tions of plant and animal life. The chapter given to a casual descrip- 
tion of people among whom he passed is not useful as ethnology; 
but the book is of service in providing a background of natural history. 
Information on the tsetse fly in Angola (p. 294) assists ethnological 
work by showing the determining effect of this biological factor. 
Presence of the fly is prohibitive to cattle-keeping, therefore cattle 
are not kept along the river courses which are infested with this pest. 

Alexander Barns made no pretence of writing more than a travel 
book; nevertheless he publishes photographs of ethnological value, 
gives useful historical summaries, and deals with economic problems 
of production and transportation. 

Tucker's book "Drums in the Darkness," though written to 
interest the American public in mission work, contains many ethno- 
logical statements. The chief of these relate to the structure of the 
compound (p. 37) ; the dress of women (p. 39) ; naming of twins and 
triplets; and other items which agree well with data from the district 
in which I worked. There are notes on drum signals (p. 74) and 
cannibalism (p. 77). Apparently drum signals were in use at Bine" 
half a century ago. Forty years ago a slave was killed and eaten 
at the installation ceremonies for a new king, a point that was noted 



Historical Sources 125 

in the works of Battell, Cavazzi, and other early writers. A descrip- 
tion of the whipping of boys at initiation (p. 99) agrees with my own 
records, but details of the period and place are not given by Tucker. 
Questioning a corpse (p. 102) is a ceremony I have witnessed and 
described, but the instance referred to by Tucker relates to the 
interrogation of the corpse of a chief with regard to his choice of a 
successor; there are laws of succession, but these may be waived. 
The ceremony described in my monograph was conducted to discover 
the cause of death and not to determine succession. If Tucker 
has any detailed information with regard to puberty ceremonies for 
girls his reticence is regrettable (p. 142). Tucker says that suicide 
among women is common (p. 143). A mention of ocisunji, a feast 
for spirits at which meat is offered to idols, is interesting (p. 168) 
but details are lacking, and the use of the word idols is ambiguous. 
The information respecting use of charms is corroborative of my 
own observations in two other centers, Elende and Ngalangi. 

The most recent publication on the ethnology of Angola is that of 
F. and W. Jaspert of the Stadtisches Volkermuseum, Frankfort, 1930. 
Their journey was undertaken primarily to make collections for a 
museum, but linguistic and ethnological information was recorded 
among several tribes, notably the Kimbundu, Vachokue, Luchazi, 
Luimba, and Kusongo. The farthest point attained in a 
southerly direction was just north of Kipungo, and the general line 
of march was from Benguela to the northeast, into Lunda. There is 
very little overlapping in the work of the Jasperts and myself. My 
itinerary took me to the extreme south into the Vakuanyama country, 
and to the far east of Moxico among the Vachokue. 

My work is presented as a monograph on the Ovimbundu only, 
and of their culture I treat exclusively, with some reference to the 
culture contacts observed on all sides of them. The Jasperts do not 
give an entire section to any one tribe; but combine their information 
respecting the tribes in a concurrent way, under such subjects as 
technology, language, and art. 

If the sections relating to history and languages are excluded there 
remain a hundred pages, only one-sixth of which refer to the Ovim- 
bundu; but there is a difficulty in reading through the book without 
being confused as to the tribe and exact locality under discussion. 

The pages devoted to a comparative vocabulary form an important 
part of the work, and one which I barely touched, though I prepared 
an outline of Umbundu grammar and made dictaphone records of the 



126 The Ovimbundu 

Umbundu language. The illustrations in photogravure are excellent, 
but the small-scale map is difficult to follow. 

As might be expected in a work covering an enormous tract of 
country, the information is of a very general kind; I have nowhere 
been able to check in any detail on my own observations. F. and W. 
Jaspert recognize that Umbundu culture is primarily based on 
agriculture, maize being the most important crop, but they do not 
admit the importance of hunting (p. 16). 

I saw many successful parties of Umbundu hunters, tested their 
precision with the bow and arrow, and was able to record the ritual 
connected with the initiation of a professional hunter. There is also 
a ceremony before the hunter sets out. It would be more accurate 
to say that, although Umbundu culture is based primarily on agri- 
culture, hunting still retains some of its earlier importance. 

The diagrams of houses in different parts of Angola are a useful 
feature of the work. I made many photographs but did not record 
details of planning. 

The masks I obtained are exactly like those pictured, but my 
observations were carried out a long way to the southeast of the 
point where the Jasperts touched the Vachokue culture. I do not 
understand from their description whether the writers saw an initiation 
ceremony. They state that boys are circumcised and girls are excised 
when very young, even at the age of five or six years. I observed 
initiation camps and dances at three centers, Ngalangi, Katoko, and 
Cangamba; the last named is the main center of Vachokue culture. 
The male novices varied in age from twelve to sixteen years hence 
they were older than the novices mentioned by the Jasperts. I was 
informed that there were no excision operations for girls, though at 
Ngalangi, Vanyemba girls were secluded in the bush during initiation 
rites lasting for a month. 

Bibliographical references to the research of H. Baumann will be 
found useful for comparative study. His detailed record of initiation 
among the Vachokue is valuable as a check on my observation, as we 
worked independently in areas separated by several hundred miles. 

Consultation of historical sources gives the following answers to 
questions which were asked as an introduction to this chapter. 

On the grounds of tribal tradition, historical evidence, and cul- 
tural affinities, the original home of the Ovimbundu was likely to have 
been in the southwest Congo. The Ovimbundu undoubtedly possess 
important cultural traits that have been characteristic of the southern 
Congo region from the earliest time for which a record exists. 



Historical Sources 127 

In northern Angola the Ovimbundu could not have had other than 
a warlike existence, which trained them in military tactics and the 
building up of an aggressive confederacy. In this they were aided 
by contact with the Portuguese, who supplied guns and powder in 
exchange for slaves and ivory from the interior. This accumulated 
wealth further stimulated the building up of Umbundu tribal life. 

Introduction of maize by the Portuguese gave the Ovimbundu a 
knowledge of this grain, which later became their staple wealth and 
food supply. 

The cultural pattern of the northern Congo was the same in the 
year 1600 as it is today, and consideration of the ethnology of the 
Congo region reveals numerous similarities with Umbundu culture 
of the present time. 

Writings of explorers in Angola from A.D. 1800 to the present day 
bring out many points which are in agreement with my field observa- 
tions. There are no discrepancies which would make me question 
the validity of information given by my informants. 

In early records, Battell's observation of cattle in the hinterland 
of Benguela (1600), is important in showing that at such an early date 
the Ovimbundu had access to cattle when raiding from their home 
in the Benguela Highlands. 

From these fundamentals of geography and history the inquiry 
turns to a detailed account of my observations among the Ovimbundu 
and surrounding tribes. 



IV. PHYSICAL APPEARANCE 

Among the Ovimbundu there are two main physical types. One 
of these is of brown skin color and slender build. In this type the 
calves and thighs are poorly developed, and the chest girth is slender 
in keeping with the general development. In general the physical 
characteristics are distinctly different from those of a typical West 
African Negro as represented by the Kru and the Ibo tribes. 

The Ovimbundu are Bantu Negroes who possibly result from a 
crossing of Hamites and true Negroes, a hypothesis which would 
account for both the light-colored slim type and the shorter, darker, 
more sturdy type. But E. Torday (Herbert Spencer, Descriptive 
Sociology of African Races, London, 1930, Preface, p. iii) thinks that 
differences of physique among Sudanic and Bantu Negroes are 
sufficiently accounted for by isolations and environmental differences. 
Torday denies the need for postulating an infusion of Hamitic blood, 
but his opinion is opposed to that which has found general acceptance. 

The darker Ovimbundu with more facial hair may represent an 
infusion of Vachokue blood because there was warfare between the 
Ovimbundu and the Vachokue of eastern Angola with the result 
that some of the latter were taken as slaves. Types of the Ovim- 
bundu are shown (Plates LII-LIV). 

The Vasele, an Umbundu-speaking people of west-central Angola, 
form a linguistic and cultural pocket because of their isolation in 
rugged country. Their physique shows no pronounced differences 
from that of the Ovimbundu, but the methods of scarification, tooth 
mutilation, and personal ornament are in distinct contrast with those 
of the Ovimbundu. The Ovimbundu have only a V-shaped notch in 
the two upper central incisors, whereas the Vasele chip all their teeth 
to points (Plate LXXVI, Figs. 1, 2). 

The Luvando of southwest Angola resemble the Ovimbundu in 
general physique, though the great difference in hairdressing and 
personal ornament is likely to give a contrary impression (Plate LIX, 
Figs. 1, 2). 

The Vaheneca are particularly well developed (Plate LXII, Figs. 
1, 2). Not until Mongua is reached does one find a people who are 
distinctly different from the Ovimbundu in all respects. The 
Vakuanyama of Mongua are noticeably tall and slim, much taller 
and slimmer than the Ovimbundu, while their physiognomy is more 
refined (Plates LXIII; LXVIII, Fig. 2). The Vakuanyama are 
a pastoral tribe whereas the Ovimbundu are principally agricultural. 

128 



Physical Appearance 129 

The picture of types gathered at Ngalangi (Plate LXXXIX, 
Fig. 3) shows, reading from left to right along the back row, then 
along the front row in the same direction: an Ocimbundu; an Oci- 
vokue; a man of the Vangangella; an Uluchazi woman; a Lunda man; 
and two types of the Vangangella. 

The M'Bunda man and woman photographed at Cangamba 
display characteristic deformation of the upper central incisors 
(Plate XCI, Figs. 1, 2). Photographs of a Mussurongo man and 
two women, taken about a hundred miles east of Malange, show no 
great difference from the Ovimbundu except in their shorter stature 
(Plates LXX, Figs. 1, 2; LXXI, Figs. 1, 2). The Bushman (Plate 
LXIX, Figs. 1, 2) shows a type found wandering in small bands in 
the south of Angola. These photographs were taken at Cassanga. 

The dress and personal ornaments of the tribes dwelling to the 
south of the Ovimbundu (Plates LIX-LXVIII) are entirely different 
from the clothing and decorative styles observed in the areas occupied 
by the Ovimbundu. This statement is true with regard to bodily 
covering, ornaments, tooth mutilation, use of pigment, scarification, 
and hairdressing. 

In respect of all these factors, males and females of the Ovimbundu 
have distinctive patterns which do not appear to have influenced, 
or to have been influenced by the styles around them. 

In working southward from Elende I passed through typical 
Umbundu cultures until the vicinity of Kipungo was reached. At 
this place the change in physical appearance, ornaments, and hair- 
dressing was remarkable both for its abruptness and distinctiveness. 
But the change from agricultural to pastoral pursuits is gradual. 

A comparison of photographs indicates at once the truth of this 
statement, which can be further illustrated by a detailed description 
of the ornaments observed from Kipungo to Mongua. 

By far the most important of these is the circular omba shell 
made from the basal part of a gastropod shell of the genus Conns 
Linn; and allied forms. These are highly prized, not because of any 
intrinsic worth, but on account of strong sentiment arising from their 
bequest, which is usually in the female line. I have, however, seen 
a few males of the Vakuanyama wearing these shells. For the old 
omba shells monetary offers equal to the earnings of a woman for a 
period of six months were made, but without success. One woman 
wavered somewhat, but finally decided that she dared not return to 
her home without her omba shells. From a Portuguese trader I 
bought, for a small sum, omba shells showing stages in manufacture. 



130 The Ovimbundu 

The new ornaments had acquired no sentimental value, therefore 
their price was moderate. 

Omba shells are to be seen in use from Kipungo southward through 
Huila, among the Luvando, and among the Vakuanyama of southern 
Angola. In the places mentioned one may judge the social status 
of a woman by the number of omba shells she wears. A principal 
wife is usually well supplied with these ornaments. 

In this southern journey it was noticeable that there was an 
increasing use of red pigment which is lavishly employed for smearing 
every kind of ornament, the body, and the hair. Leather belts and 
skirts of Vakuanyama women are thickly coated with red pigment 
which is invariably mixed with grease. The red powder is prepared 
by desiccating a red wood called tukula by the Vakuanyama, a name 
which is used through Angola and the southern Congo area. 

From Kipungo southward through the Vakuanyama country 
there is a notable absence of decorative wooden hair combs. On the 
contrary, delicately carved combs are used by both men and women 
of the Ovimbundu. The Vasele make such combs, but by far the best 
examples are made and used by the Vachokue tribe of eastern Angola. 
Here the decorative design usually includes a well-carved human 
figure at the top of the comb. 

Among the Vakuanyama, necklaces of disks made from ostrich 
eggshell are worn by the women only. A woman of importance has 
a dozen loops of such necklaces, each loop being about 125 cm long. 
These necklaces are so greatly esteemed that only after much persua- 
sion can a woman be induced to part with a single link. Perhaps, as 
is the case with omba shell, there is more than the intrinsic value to 
be considered. One point is constantly noticed in considering social 
status and ornament. All the wives of a wealthy man, especially 
among the Vakuanyama, are made to advertise their husband's posi- 
tion by the profusion of their ornaments and the quality of their 
leather skirts and belts. 

There is, in addition to the necklaces of ostrich-eggshell beads, a 
highly prized necklace made from small perforated disks of shell 
having a diameter of about a centimeter. The Vakuanyama women 
smear a necklace of this kind with grease and tukula powder; the 
value of a necklace 125 cm long is equivalent to that of an ox. In 
describing these necklaces there is interest in noting that they are 
traded to the south of Angola from places six hundred miles to the 
north; therefore their value is to some extent dependent on rarity 
and distant origin. 



Physical Appearance 131 

Young unmarried girls of the Luvando tribe wear a large number 
of leg-bands which extend from the ankles to the knees as a sign that 
puberty has not been reached. These leg-bands are somewhat roughly 
twisted from fibrous roots and twigs from which the cortex has been 
removed. Collars of tough, elastic, cane-like substance are worn by 
Luvando women, and so numerous are these that the neck is entirely 
covered. These cane neck-bands are ornamented with burned, 
incised, geometrical patterns, and, in keeping with other ornaments, 
are thickly smeared with grease and red powder from tukula wood 
(Plate LIX, Figs. 1, 2). 

Women of the Vakipungo and Vakuanyama wear heavy coils of 
brass or copper wire on their forearms. In southern Angola women 
wear bracelets of twisted wire which are identical with those worn 
by Zulu women. Bracelets of beaten trade brass, ornamented with 
incised geometrical designs, are worn by women of the Ovimbundu, 
Vakuanyama, Luvando, and Vakipungo tribes. Ovimbundu women 
now depend largely on trade goods for personal ornament. 

Ovimbundu men and women are dressed in trade cloth. Unmar- 
ried girls wear one piece of cloth which hangs from the armpits to the 
knees. A married woman drapes herself with two pieces of cloth, 
a skirt hanging from her girdle, and an upper piece so folded as to 
hold her baby tightly to her back. Men wear a single piece of cloth 
as a skirt; the upper part of the body is bare (Plates XLIX-LI). 
From the region of Kipungo to the southern border, clothing is of 
leather. The Vachokue wear trade cloth or bark cloth. 

Hairdressing is of many styles. Ovimbundu women braid their hair 
neatly in strands across their foreheads, and small blue and white 
trade beads are used to decorate the braids. The hairdressing of the 
Ovimbundu women is different from that in any other part of Angola. 
At an early age the hair is trained into two long loops at the back 
of the head. Then these are covered with black cloth which is bound 
tightly. The two loops are afterwards studded with brass-headed 
tacks obtained from a store (Plate XL, Fig. 3). 

Luvando women in the region of Kipungo dress the hair to form 
a large triangular projection from the back of the head. Girls of the 
Vaheneca tribe near Huila mass the hair with clay to form large 
"cock's combs." Women of Gambos pass each small plait of hair 
through hollow reeds. Humbe women do not redden or grease their 
hair which is massed into three high ridges on the top, while at the 
sides there are hornlike projections. Vakuanyama women dress their 
hair with grease and tukula powder. A principal wife builds up her 



132 The Ovimbundu 

hair into five high cones. Vachokue women mass their hair into 
separate balls shaped and held by clay and red coloring matter. 
I know of no hairdressing for Vachokue men, but ornamental wooden 
combs are sometimes used. 

In only one place have I seen a nose pin worn, namely, the Esele 
country of Vila Nova de Selles. The fashion is out of date, but women 
of only twenty-five years of age have the septum of the nose bored; 
evidently the custom has not been obsolete for a long period (Plate 
LXXV, Fig. 1). 

The most popular European importations are blue cloth with 
white spots, metal hair combs, beads, and bright metal crosses 
bearing a figure of the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus. This 
ornament has penetrated to districts far away from Christian 
missions, and its wide dispersal shows that a newly introduced and 
attractive ornament from a foreign source may readily be accepted 
by tribes of different cultures. 

There are interesting points of psychology in the attitude of the 
Ovimbundu toward European importations. Only a few patterns of 
cloth are favored, and there is no sale for any other design. Some 
designs are thought to be appropriate for young girls while others are 
favored by older women. The same may be said of colored beads, for 
whereas both blue and white beads are the usual decoration for young 
women and immature girls, red beads are worn chiefly by the 
elderly women. 

A consideration of personal ornament establishes the general truth 
that in scarification, hairdressing, tooth mutilation, the use of red 
powder and grease, the anointing of the hair with palm oil, and the 
wearing of trade cloth, leather, or bark cloth, there is little exchange 
of styles. There are diffusions in language and other cultural traits, 
but decorative elements which have for a long period been regarded 
as distinctive of tribal life are rigidly preserved. 



V. ECONOMIC LIFE 

The words "economic life" are here used with a wide connotation 
including nature lore, food supply, trade, transport, and industries; 
all these are combined to form a foundation for every aspect of the 
social life of the tribe. 

The truth of this is realized if one pays attention to the rites 
connected with occupations. For the hunter there is special training, 
ritual, and a peculiar mode of burial. Final ceremonies in the initia- 
tion of a young blacksmith are associated with sacred acts such as 
sacrifice of animals and the sprinkling of the tools with their blood. 
Even the simple occupation of pounding corn requires that the rock 
shall be dedicated to this purpose by sprinkling the blood of a 
chicken on the surface. Similarly, a clay pit has to be consecrated 
before the raw material may be taken for making pottery. A caravan 
journey is not merely a commercial undertaking; the accompanying 
medicine-man carries a wooden figure which he consults with regard 
to the route (Plate XXI, Fig. 5). 

Division of labor according to sex is one of the most important 
principles involved in the economic life, more particularly in occupa- 
tional groupings, which are strictly observed. Moreover, within any 
one activity, such as house-building, there are tasks for men only, 
while other parts of the work are performed exclusively by women 
or children. 

The study of industries is of great importance when a comparison 
of Umbundu and adjacent cultures is being made. This is particu- 
larly true in the instance of wood-carving, an occupation yielding 
highly specialized products some of which are connected with religious 
belief and ritual. All artifacts are valuable as criteria of cultural 
contacts, though their reliability as evidence of trait diffusion natu- 
rally varies with their degree of complexity. Study of native indus- 
tries in relation to European contacts illustrates a cultural process 
which may result in acceptance, rejection, or ingenious adaptation 
of new ideas. 

That a study of the economic life of a tribe is not merely a record- 
ing of material processes and artifacts, is illustrated by observation 
of the treatment of cattle. This pastoral pursuit naturally falls under 
a heading "Domestic Animals," but the ideas associated with cattle, 
including funeral feasts, use of horns on graves, and the wrapping of 
the royal corpse in oxhide, lead directly into important matters of 
belief and ritual. 

133 



134 The Ovimbundu 

Nature lore of the Ovimbundu rightly forms an introduction to 
other aspects of economic life, because there is no better introduction 
to ethnological research in the field than that of associating with the 
people in daily occupations connected with the food supply and 
industries. In this way a field worker realizes that observation on 
the part of hunters and food gatherers is fundamental, not merely to 
economic and social life, but to the growth of language and folklore. 

Observation and experiment have led to the selection of many 
kinds of timber, each having one or more specific uses. Collection 
of plants is connected with the making of dyes for baskets, a varnish 
for pots, and a pharmacopoeia for the medicine-man. Minute 
observation of the habits of animals, primarily carried out to ensure 
successful hunting, is clearly reflected in the growth of vocabulary, 
and likewise in the realism and humor of folk tales and proverbs 
(chapter VIII). 

This chapter is concerned chiefly with a presentation of factual 
material whose psychological and cultural bearing is more fully dealt 
with in chapters X-XII. 

Nature Lore 

The Ovimbundu are keen observers whose knowledge of the 
natural history of plants and animals is comprehensive. Almost 
any boy of twelve years of age is able to give the information detailed 
here. Some of the birds have been identified by Mr. Rudyerd 
Boulton, Department of Zoology, Field Museum. 

Ombo. Ostrich. The knowledge of this bird must come from the south of 

Angola. In traveling south I first saw ostriches at Humbe. These were 

domesticated birds. 
Epanda. Wattled Crane (Bugeranus carunculatus). The informant said, 

"Epanda is a big bird which has long legs and a long neck." 
Epumumu. This is the Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus cafer) whose black wings 

are tipped with white. I have observed them from Ganda to Vakuanyama 

country. They take to flight slowly after hopping heavily for a few paces. 
Ocamukongo. From the Umbundu word ukongo, a hunter. This bird lives 

on small buck and rabbits. 
Etokailo. This is the smaller bustard called by the Boers knorhaan. 
Ohanga. The Guinea Fowl (Numida meleagris). 
Onjava. Spur-winged Goose (Plectropterus gambensis). 
Ongonga. An eagle. The word is used generally for a large bird of prey. 
Ohokohoko. The Bateleur Eagle (Terathopius ecaudatus). The bird is almost 

without a tail. This bird is not predatory. It kills snakes but does not 

take chickens or other small animals. 
Ociselele. A kite, well known because it preys on chickens. 
Etalahanga. A hawk which waits in the trees then volplanes on its prey. 
Okapamba. A small hawk which preys on chickens. 
Enyamahuti. A hawk. 

Ocikuamanga. The White-breasted Crow (Corvus albus). 
Onguali (ua-wa). This is the Red-necked Partridge (Pternistis afer). 



Economic Life 135 

Ekalanga. A species of francolin without red coloring on the legs. 

Esuvi. This is a bird which comes out at night. It can catch spirits and 
make them die a second death. 

Onjimbi. This nocturnal owl (Bubo maculosus) is thought to be very dan- 
gerous. People who hear the cry of this bird are frightened because the 
noise is the sound of death. 

Kacukucuku. The Barn Owl (Tyto alba affinis). 

Ongongayulombo. An eagle which eats small buck, pigs, and rabbits. 

Ekuti. Is a Red-eyed Dove (Streptopelia semitorquata) which says "oo— oo— 
oo" very sharply all day. 

Onende. A dove (Streptopelia capicola) which makes the same noise as ekuti 

but on a higher note. 
Onduva. This bird is of great importance to the Ovimbundu, because the 

feathers are used for decorating the head of a dead king. A medicine-man 

sometimes uses them for decoration when he is performing. 
Ondonga. Is a little bird, which, like onduva, belongs to the royal family 

of birds. 
Ukuku. A water bird. 

Ocisandombunji. This is a bird which feeds on white ants. 
Epandacokocoko. This is a bird (Geocichla litsipsirupa) whose cry tells the 

people of a village to make the guest house ready as strangers are coming. 
Ocilonga. Is a beautiful yellow bird, an oriole (Oriolus monarchus angolensis) . 
Etua, singular; ovatua, plural. A species of bustard. 
Etioko. A small bird of the plains (Anthus leucophrys). 
Okakelekele. This is the Spur-wing Plover (Hoplopterus armatus), a large 

bird which lives on flat land near rivers. 

Ocikandi. An unidentified bird. My informant said, "Ocikandi can cry in 

the same way as any other bird." 
Okakongonyala. This is a bird somewhat like a pigeon but larger. It has 

long legs and is able to run well. 
Undolo. A small spotted bird which always looks in the direction of the sun. 
Omiapia. This is a swallow. 

Ocikungumiapia. My informant said, "This bird is like omiapia but larger." 
Omuipui. "He has a crest on his head and when he sings rain is coming." 
Esunguaguluve. This bird has a long beak. It lays eggs on the ground. The 

bird is as big as a man's fist. 
Omanula. A woodpecker (family Picidae) . 

Okangongo. Has a white breast spotted with black; the head is blue. 
Ocinjonjo. This is a little bird having a long beak which is used to probe into 

flowers. 
Koseselekete. A little black bird which makes a small fine nest. 
Ocituku. A river bird. These birds go about in flocks. 
Ongombo. A small yellow bird. 
Epilili. A yellow bird rather larger than ongombo. This bird is kept in cages 

very cleverly made of reeds by small boys. The birds are caught by smear- 
ing a sticky substance on the branches of trees. 
Ocikenge. Agapornis roseicollis. A small green parrot. 
Okalusondonjovo. Is to be seen at the time of onjovo (spring). These birds 

fly in flocks. 

A description of bird-calls illustrates a method of reasoning by 
analogy. This results in a transference of human thoughts and 
emotions to animals, a process which gives animal fables their strong 



136 The Ovimbundu 

appeal. For example, the pigeon says, Tu kolela oku iva ("We believe 
in stealing"), and the following are further instances of the same kind. 

Ocinganja is a bird which has several calls. Early in the year the female says 
as she looks at the newly hatched brood, "This year I have borne white 
children." Later the little birds grow black feathers. Then the mother 
cries, "Each year disappointment." Sometimes the female says to the 
cock bird, "A stick has stuck in my eye. I wonder whether it will make 
a growth there." The bird is probably the Black Flycatcher (Melaenornis 
pammelaina) . 

Epandacokocoko says, "Where will the guests stay? Where? Where? Where?" 
This is an unfailing intimation that strangers will visit the village. 

Omanula. This is another bird which announces the approach of strangers 
by saying, "Akombe! Akombe! Akombe!" ("Guests! Guests! Guests!") 
Two birds are supposed to carry on a dialogue. 

Sankanjuele says, "He who has eaten should leave the rest for the important 
ones," meaning himself. 

Ondonga answers, "Do you mean me? The way you scold hurts me to my 
heart." 

Ungolombia. The male and female birds ungolombia are about to cross a 
stream. The female says, "I am wearing four yards of cloth," meaning 
that she will get wet. The husband says, three times, "If you are wearing 
four yards of cloth, why do you not cross at the source of the river?" 

Ombovo says, "When I lay my eggs on the ground, the white ants destroy 
them." The call continues, "When I lay them up high, kalupamba steals 
them." Ombovo cries, "Such hardship, goodness gracious me!" The exclama- 
tion is, "A mat we," literally, "O my mother!" 

Kacukuku the Barn Owl (Typo alba) and his mate speak together. The female 
says, "Cimuku, do you eat rats?" He answers, "I do not eat them, they 
have tails." 

Ungungu says, "No big animal lays eggs, so the crocodile must be a bird, too." 

Ocimbamba (night hawk) may be heard on moonlight nights saying, 
"O lion, here are the people." 

Ekuti says, "My child is gone to Koputu." Koputu, in Umbundu, means a 
far off place. Possibly Koputu is a corruption of Oporto. This bird makes 
a monotonous and continuous cry from sunrise to sunset. 

Epumumu (hornbills) are large black birds. The female says, "I'm going, 
I'm going, I'm going to our village." The male replies, "Don't go, don't 
go, the rain has come; let us plant." 

Katendipanga. This bird is quiet until September, the month in which 
rain begins to fall. Then the bird says, "Save! Save! Save!" He means 
this as a warning to people who eat their corn instead of saving some for 
seed. The seed should be sown in October when the rains have begun. 
The derivation of the name of this bird is important. Okutenda, to count; 
ovipanga, the rows of corn in a field. 

Kalusundanjovo. The female bird says, "Let's throw away the big drum." 
The male answers, "When we have thrown it away, what shall we do for 
dances?" 

Observations of the weather are of importance in fixing dates for 
sowing and reaping; such dates are the base of time reckoning. 
Rainfall is important where cattle are kept, and a knowledge of the 
stars is of service to hunters and caravan leaders when following 
unfamiliar routes. 

The weather is thought to be controlled to some extent by the 
ocimbanda ("medicine-man") and his performances. The rain- 



Economic Life 137 

maker's dance seen at Ngongo, a village of Ngalangi in east-central 
Angola, will be described in dealing with the ocimbanda (chapter IX). 

No man thinks that the course of the sun can be altered, but there 
seems to be a hope that the setting of the sun may be delayed. A 
man who is likely to be overtaken by darkness breaks a piece from 
an ant hill. This fragment is placed in the forked branch of a tree 
while the supplicant says, "Sun, wait a little while for me." 

Months are reckoned by observation of the moon. The new moon 
is osai ("moon") yokaliye ("new"). There is no word for half moon. 
The phrase for full moon is osai ya tunga ohumba. Ohumba means 
"basket"; therefore the idea appears to be that the full moon is 
round like the big basket used for field work. 

A star is called olumbungvlulu. To describe a shooting star, the 
word luenda ("it goes") is added. The large bright morning star is 
tanda. Another bright star is tielele. Three bright stars in a line 
are the hunter, the dog, and the quarry. The three stars are ukongo 
("hunter"), lombua ("the dog"), locinyama ("the animal"). 

An eclipse of the sun is uteke vutanya. The former word means 
"night," the latter word means "daylight." Hence the meaning is 
"night in daylight." 

Small mammals are captured in cane traps or stunned with blunt 
wooden arrows. The pursuit of such animals is a pastime for boys 
who thereby receive their early training in hunting. Rats are used 
as food after being boiled and roasted. This fact accounts for interest 
in the following small mammals. 

Umbili. This is a big black river rat, the largest of the water rats. 
Ocifelefele. A big gray water rat (Cricetomys?) , not so large as umbili. 
Kalene. A river rat something like the preceding one in appearance. Kalene 

can stay in the water for a longer period than that endured by ocifelefele. 
Epeke. This is a bush rat which is light gray in color. 
Ekolongonjo. This rat stays in the bush. It builds a nest in an ant hill from 

which it comes out only at night. The color is gray. 
Elima (Epomophorus) . This is the name given to the fruit bat. The word 

elima means "not one thing and not another." Thus elima is the word 

applied to a mulatto; he is not a Negro, not a white man. 
Osili (Rhabdomys). This is a large light brown mouse having white stripes 

on his back. 
Ongenge. A mouse. 
Epengue. A black rat. 

Oeipili. A mouse with a long thin nose, probably a shrew. 
Osinge. This is a very fat mouse. 
Nakalongaka. This very small mouse makes a hole around which he piles 

grass to conceal the entrance. 
Onjomboloka (Lemniscomys). A mouse with a stripe on his back. 
Kandoti (Dendromus). A very little mouse something like nakalongaka. 



138 The Ovtmbundu 

Observation of reptiles is a necessary self-protection as there are 
many poisonous snakes. The flesh of the python is eaten. Snake- 
skin and lizard-skin are occasionally used; for example, in covering a 
round, hard fruit in order to make a ball for playing a game. 

When collecting lizards and snakes I found that each kind had a 
well-known name, though there was occasional disagreement among 
the men consulted. 

Ocivangoko is a lizard (Agama planiceps) about ten inches long 
whose tail is covered with sharp spines. This reptile has colors of 
bright blue, red, and orange. Ovangu is a large spinous gray lizard 
(Agama atricoU). Ekangala (perrhosaurus nigrolineatus) is a brilliantly 
colored lizard which burrows deeply into the ground. 

Olutanjila is a long slender green snake which hides in trees to 
capture birds. Ombandanjila is a long gray-backed snake with a 
light green belly. The generic name for snake is onyoha. The python 
is omoma. The chameleon (donatio) seems to be feared, as the men 
and boys refuse to touch a dead one but always move it with sticks. 
There is a proverb to the effect that the chameleon though slow 
always gets there. The refusal to touch even dead reptiles is due 
to. an exaggerated fear of being bitten. I could find no other reason. 

Trees are of importance in connection with building houses and 
wood-carving. The qualities of different timbers are well known to 
the Ovimbundu. For the main part, the collection of medicinal 
plants and their uses will be described in connection with the 
medicine-man. The following are the most common trees which are 
of economic importance. 

Usia (pronounced oosha). This tree has an edible fruit the size of a walnut. 

The kernel is valued as a food. 
Ombula. This tree provides wood which burns readily. The small skin- 
covered stools to be found in every hut are often made from this wood. 
Ukengo. The fruit has a hard rind. 
Owindo. This tree has a small acid fruit from which a medicine is made for 

the cure of painful menstruation. 
Usilosilo. The leaf is compound and palmate. The fruit is black. 
Usiambiambia. Bears a little red, oval fruit. 
UsoU. Has a large red fruit. 
Uaombo. Grows near streams. It has a fruit like that of okulakula, but 

smaller. 
Uhuliungu. Has a fruit like the berry of a coffee plant. The fruit is used 

for making mucilage which is used for capturing small birds. 
Omanda. When this tree is small, the wood is springy, and is therefore useful 

for making bows. The wood of the older trees is burned for preparing charcoal 

which is used in the blacksmith's fire. 
Onundu. This is an erect tree having no branches on the lower part. The 

wood is extensively used in building native huts. 



Economic Life 139 

Omue. A large tree having clusters of small white flowers which are visited 

by bees on account of their content of honey. The tree yields a hard wood 

from which charcoal is prepared. The bark and leaves yield a pigment 

which is used for dyeing cloth a yellowish brown. 
O&ui is valuable because it gives a hard wood used for the corner posts of 

houses. White ants do not attack this wood, which is therefore useful for 

making the uprights on which granaries are erected. 
Okapelangalo. A tree from which planks of hard red wood are obtained. 

These are used for making doors in village fences. 
Osasa or ekenge or usamba. These trees have small compound leaves which 

are very similar. The bark of the latter two is used as rope for binding 

the uprights and the crosspieces in the framework of native houses. Ekenge 

and usamba also yield a bark which is beaten into bark cloth in the Ngalangi 

district. 
Ociyeko. The bark is used for binding posts, also for the fabrication of bark 

cloth. 
Ungolo. The roots of this tree yield a dye for cloth. The leaves are said to 

have a value for curing sore eyes. The mother of a child afflicted with 

sore eyes chews the leaves, then spits into the child's eyes. 
Ongaye. Yields a wood used for making pestles and pounding sticks. 
Omako ("iron wood"). This tree has a hard wood which is used for the same 

purpose. 
Onjunge. Gives a wood used in the making of houses, doors, and beehives. 
Omone. A large tree which gives planks for building purposes. 
Uvanje. Yields a useful red timber. 
Ulondangandu. A tree with very rough bark. The word ongandu means a 

crocodile. This is the tree which even a crocodile can climb. 
Onganja. A tree which yields a fruit having a value as a purgative. The 

antelope is said to be fond of the fruits of this tree. 
Ocikumbeolemba. Gives a resinous fluid which is used in the preparation of 

lime for snaring birds. 
Ulemba. This word is derived from the word ulembo, meaning shade. The 

ombala (native capital) of Ngalangi is surrounded by such trees. 
Omia. A tree which produces yellow flowers in September. The fruit is not 

edible but oil is made from it. 
Ohuku. A tree having fragrant flowers like those of honeysuckle. The thick 

bark is used in making mats. 
Osese. A soft wood which is easily whittled with a knife. The figures from 

Bailundu (Plate XXI, Fig. 5) are often carved from this wood. 
Umbolombolo. A soft wood which is not very strong. 
Umbangalunda. A small tree which produces bright red fruits. These are 

used by women for the manufacture of bead necklaces. 
Ocilavi. The wood is used for the heads of arrows for shooting birds. This 

timber is used in the building of pigpens. The branches have projections 

which are said to guard (pkulava, to guard) the occupants of the pen. 
Itata. From the roots of this tree a medicine for pulmonary complaints is 

made. 
Ukua. This is the baobab, whose habitat is the dry regions. Some of the 

trees have enormous girth. They are leafless for a great part of the year. 

The long fruits make gourds. The seeds in the fruits are bitter. 
Utuotuo (pronounced ootwdtwd). From the wood the Ovimbundu make 

wooden platters and spoons used for serving mush from the large cooking 

pot. 
Onjiliti. This tree yields a hard red wood which takes a lustrous polish. For 

this reason the wood is employed for making ornamental sticks and clubs. 
Upondanjamba. This small tree has roots which girls use for making ankle- 
bands. 



140 The Ovimbundu 

Okalaluluka. This tree has leaves which are used in treating a skin disease. 
Uvendanguluve. This small tree, only three feet in height, gives straight 
twigs which are used in making arrow shafts. 

Food Supply 
collecting and hunting 

Collecting of natural products which serve as food substances is 
chiefly in the hands of women and children, though an exception has 
to be made in the instance of honey, which is gathered by men 
and boys. 

Boys diligently search for nests, noting their location so as to be 
able to visit them again when the fledglings are large enough to 
serve as food. Large numbers of women and children may be seen 
gathering caterpillars in gourds. The insides of the caterpillars are 
squeezed into boiling water to make soup. 

When a cloud of locusts appears, as in 1925, the creatures are 
gathered. They are sometimes fried, or they may be boiled in water, 
dried, and preserved with salt in earthenware pots. 

A number of miscellaneous items of the food supply were men- 
tioned in connection with names of trees whose fruits are gathered. 

Boys engaged in food-gathering usually carry small bows and 
blunt wooden arrows {pcilavi). One type of bird arrow is fixed to 
the bowstring. The forward end of the arrow is split so that it 
may contain small stones that are ejected when the string is released. 
From the wild fig tree mucilage is obtained and this is boiled until 
it forms a thick paste which is smeared on the boughs of trees. 
Some of the small birds captured in this way are eaten, others are 
kept in wicker cages made by children. 

In all parts of Angola large cylindrical beehives may be seen 
fixed high in the trees (Plate XC, Fig. 2). Two types of hive have 
been noted in particular. In the Elende district a hive is made by 
opposing two half cylinders of wood each about three feet long, so 
forming a hive which has a diameter of one foot. The ends are 
covered, with the exception of a small round hole. The whole struc- 
ture is bound round with grass which is kept in position by lashings 
of bark. In the neighborhood of Cassanga a difference in the structure 
of the hives was noticed. This type of hive is made from a cylinder 
of strong reddish bark, the edges of which are fastened together 
with stout wooden pegs. The dimensions are the same as for the 
hive used in Elende, but the hive of bark is uncovered. 

In the Elende district honey of wild bees is removed from the 
hives in the months of August and December. One man ascends 



Economic Life 141 

the tree in order to lower the hive with a long rope of bark or plaited 
fiber, while beneath the tree men are prepared to take the hive, 
which is opened over a smoky fire. The men wear no protection, 
consequently they are badly stung. Boys are encouraged to help, 
and those who run away receive no honey. Honey may be eaten 
alone or with manioc. No drink is made from honey only, but 
ochasa is the name given to beer with honey in it. Ovingundu is 
a drink made from pounded corn which has been soaked in water 
to which a little honey has been added. The drink is allowed 
to remain untouched over night; thus it becomes sweet and is mildly 
intoxicating. 

Wax is a very important item of trade. In the remote places 
natives bring to small trading posts balls of wax which are about 
two pounds in weight. These in former days were a standard of 
exchange in terms of which other values could be measured. These 
balls of wax are made into large cakes for foreign export. In the 
Esele country a fiber strainer is used for cleaning the wax. Honey 
is sometimes dried in very large baskets which are three feet in 
diameter and two inches deep. These baskets were not observed 
among the Ovimbundu, but they are used in the region of Cassanga 
in southern Angola. The honey of wild bees when eaten in the comb 
is palatable; it would be more so if one could disregard the presence 
of numerous dead bees. 

The bow is the chief weapon of the hunter. The release of the 
arrow is made with the index and middle fingers (Plate XXXIX, 
Fig. 1). I have observed this method among the Ovimbundu of 
the Benguela Highlands, in the region of Kipungo, in the far south 
among the Vakuanyama, and among the Vasele of the Novo Redondo 
hinterland. Arrows differ considerably in pattern as the illustrations 
show (Plate XVII, Figs. 1-9); the Ovimbundu have arrow-points 
of excellent workmanship. The manufacture of these arrow-points is 
one of the most skilled occupations of the blacksmith. Each 
man makes his own shafts and feathers them. The arrows of the 
Vasele have leaf-shaped iron points; so also have those used by 
the Vakuanyama. 

Among the Ovimbundu are specialists who make bows from 
elastic woods called usia and osambia. The bow itself is ohonji 
and the arrow is usongo. At the third shot I saw a young Ocimbundu 
boy split a cane which was placed upright at a distance of thirty- 
three feet. The throwing club (ohunya) is used for killing small 
game such as hares. 



142 The Ovimbundu 

The only spear (unga) that I have seen is made entirely of iron. 
The shaft is covered with the tail of an ox to which the tuft of hair 
remains attached. This is the spear formerly used in warfare. The 
distribution is wide. Such spears were purchased from the Ovim- 
bundu of Elende and Bailundu and also from the Vakuanyama 
living in the far south of Angola, but I do not think that the Ovim- 
bundu make these spears, which are probably traded from the south. 

A hunter is considered exceptionally fortunate if he possesses an 
old muzzle-loading gun (uta). I have seen only two hunters who 
owned such a weapon. In one instance the barrel was bound 
to the stock with hide thongs, while the woodwork was decorated 
with brass tacks. Powder and fragments of metal are carried in 
a leather pouch which is attached to a broad, leather waist belt 
(Plate XIII, Fig. 6). There is certainly a feeling among hunters 
that the sale of a well-tried weapon will be followed by bad luck. 
The gun is sometimes fixed to form a trap in such a way that an 
antelope may tread on the string and so discharge the gun. Some- 
times a piece of meat is attached to a string which is fastened to the 
trigger. A heavy beam of wood into which an iron spike is fastened 
was used in districts where the hippopotamus and elephant were 
hunted. Such a trap was fixed over a path known to be frequented 
by these animals. Big game of this type is now rare. 

In the Esele country the following traps are in use: (1) A 
deep, narrow, grass-covered pit from the bottom of which sharp 
stakes project upward; this trap is known as okueve. (2) A simple 
trap consisting of four long sharp stakes which are fixed in the ground 
so that they incline toward a gap through which a buck is likely 
to jump (Plate LXXIII, Fig. 2). (3) The trap (ocisonga) for lions 
and leopards. This is a heavily built structure provided with a 
panel-like door which slides down when the entering animal releases 
a cord fastened to the bait (Plate XCII, Fig. 2). (4) A heavy 
trap triangular in form. This trap is not an enclosure, but a covering 
under which the animal has to go in order to reach the bait. In 
addition to the foregoing examples there is a trap (onjanjo) which 
is used for snaring antelope. The essential of the device is a loop 
which is bound to the end of a supple branch lightly fastened to the 
ground. This, however, did not come under my observation. 

Long, cone-shaped, cane structures are placed in the grass, which 
is then fired. Animals disturbed and frightened by the fire rush 
into the wide end of the trap, then make their way to the narrow end 
(Plate XV, Fig. 5). One such trap is modified to form a snare with 



Economic Life 143 

a noose which hangs over the entrance. From Ngalangi I obtained 
a trap formed by suspending a heavy block of wood inside a box. 
The animal enters a small circular hole, passes under the heavy 
block and begins to nibble the grain which is strewn on the bottom 
of the box. Presently he releases a fine string which brings down 
the block in such a way that he is pinned underneath. I am informed 
that this trap is used at Elende, but I have not seen it there. 

Some hunters note the feeding and drinking places of their quarry, 
which is shot from a hiding place in a tree. Young animals may be 
run down by a hunter in open chase. Screens are not carried in front 
of a hunter, but he does sometimes dress in the skins of animals. 
His disguise is completed by wearing a tuft of the animal's hair on 
his head. 

Dogs are used for tiring out young animals in the chase, and 
also for catching hares. There is a tendency at the present time 
to improve the breed of native dog by crossing with a large hunting 
dog from South Africa. In the Esele country I have seen, high on 
a granite rock, a small cairn of stones which covered the skull of a 
famous hunting dog. Dogs are used most commonly when the hunt 
is communal (Plate XXIII, Fig. 1), but the best hunters work alone 
without the aid of dogs. In the general hunt women and children 
may take part in driving the game; often a fire is started in the grass, 
which is very dry in the months of June and July. A hunter who 
works alone may excite the curiosity of an animal by blowing through 
a horn of an antelope. Spider's web covers the wide end of the horn. 

I have observed a general hunt in which thirty men and boys 
participated, each carrying a bow and arrows. The party was 
accompanied by many dogs. The antelope which had been killed 
was carried on a pole slung on the shoulders of two men. There 
was intense excitement as the troop advanced toward their village, 
shouting and jumping. In another hunt of this kind muzzle-loading 
guns were carried. The Ovimbundu do not use nets in hunting, 
neither do they poison animals. Decoy animals are not used, but in 
the large wooden trap (ocisonga) a living goat or pig is placed. 

It is necessary to distinguish between hunting as a general pas- 
time, in which all males, and even women and children join to a 
certain extent, and the hunting of animals by a professional hunter. 
The professional hunter is usually called ukongo (less frequently 
enyanga) ; but there is no name for the non-professional hunter. A 
boy who wishes to become a professional hunter has to serve for a 
time with an ukongo before he himself receives this title. There is 



144 The Ovimbundu 

an initiation feast when the training is ended. At the feast all people 
of the village may be present but they do not dance; only the profes- 
sional hunters may do so. The boy who is to be initiated must not 
speak or move until he "feels the spirit on his head"; then he gives 
meat to the people. After hunters have captured game for the 
feast, the blood from these animals is used to smear over the bow, 
arrows, and spear which have been made for the novice by his tutor. 
This is analogous to the initiation of the young blacksmith who 
receives blood-sprinkled tools made by the master blacksmith. 

There is in connection with the life and death of the professional 
hunter a certain amount of ritual and precaution. The night before 
setting out to hunt is a time of dancing and renewal of the imple- 
ments of the chase, which are kept in a house specially prepared for 
them. A hunter who is on the eve of departure calls in other profes- 
sional hunters to share the ceremony, which includes the rubbing 
of the bows and other implements with palm oil. A libation of beer 
is poured on the bows, spears, and arrows, but no medicine-man 
is present. Some of the bows are never used, because they are merely 
the symbols of the personality and prowess of dead hunters whose 
names they have taken. The food and cooking pots of a hunter 
must never be associated with those of ordinary household use. If 
a hunter is following the tracks of an animal he must not point with 
his finger as this action will drive the animal away. The correct 
way to point is by use of the feathered end of an arrow. The hunter 
must not sleep with his wife the night before setting out in quest 
of game. 

I have frequently seen in front of the hut of a hunter a number 
of skulls of antelope and other animals mounted on poles arranged 
in circular formation (Plate XXXII, Fig. 2). These skulls seem to 
be trophies, which are invariably taken away by the hunter if he 
finds a new home. There is no reason to doubt the statement that 
these skulls are an offering to the spirits who give good luck in 
hunting, because such a belief would be in harmony with the general 
respect for ancestral ghosts, which are thought to influence the 
affairs of the living. 

On several occasions, notably near Ganda and in the Cassonge 
country, I have seen the tombs of hunters. These are large structures 
built of slabs of granite laid with some symmetry. The rock tomb 
is invariably placed on the top of a commanding eminence of granite. 
The skulls of animals which the hunter has killed are piled on the 
top of the cairn, but I do not know whether these are the trophies 



Economic Life 145 

which are fixed on poles in front of the hunter's home during his 
lifetime (Plate XXXII, Figs. 1, 2). 

There are at the funeral of a hunter special observances which 
will be mentioned under the heading of funeral rites. 

FISHING 

In the region of Elende there is fishing with both basket and line; 
a method of poisoning fish is also practised. Usually a male fishes 
with a bark line. Women catch fish by the poisoning method, and 
in addition to this they generally follow the procedure in which 
baskets are held or weighted in the stream. If the water flows 
swiftly men may take charge of the fishing operations. At times 
both men and women fish with nets. Husband and wife may not 
sleep together the night before fishing, as this is believed to make 
the male and female fish stay together at the bottom of the river. 

The fishing line consists of tough green bark which is cut into 
strips whose length depends on the height of the river's bank. A 
hole is bored through the body of a grasshopper, a worm, or a grub 
taken from under the bark of a tree. Through this hole is passed 
a short stiff piece of grass about half an inch long, to which the line 
is attached. The fish is caught when the crosspiece of sharp grass 
becomes fast in its throat. 

When the fisher throws the line he sings: "0 fish, come and take 
your good thing. Do not send the little fish to spoil the good thing. 
Better you come and take the good thing with all your strength." 

In order to make fish poison the tuberous roots of a plant are 
taken and soaked in water until a scum rises to the top. The solid 
part of the poison is not given, because it would sink and the fish 
which ate it would remain at the bottom of the river. Therefore 
only the scum of this poisonous infusion is thrown in the water. 
The stupefied, gasping fish remain at the surface, whereupon they 
are seized by women who transfer them to gourds or baskets worn 
around their necks. Usually poison is used only in the dry season 
when the rivers are shallow. 

Sometimes there is fishing by means of a weir (olunja) which 
has an opening in the middle. On the lower side of this gap a basket 
trap is placed. 

There is no fishing by torchlight. At the coast, and along the 
river Kwanza I have seen heavy dugout canoes in use; these were 
about twenty to thirty feet long and hollowed from single trees 
(Plate LXXII, Figs. 1, 2). At Ambrizette I noted the use of a fishing 



146 The Ovimbundu 

spear eight feet long, the end of which consisted of ten sharp prongs 
of palm stem (Plate LXXIII, Fig. 1). 

Near Cangamba in eastern Angola, fishing in the Kwando River 
occupied numerous men and women of the mixed tribes in the dis- 
trict, namely, Vachokue, Luchazi, and Babunda. Men paddled into 
midstream in small bark canoes from which fishing operations were 
directed. The fishermen carried small conical string nets, which 
were attached to stakes in such a way that the openings of the nets 
faced upstream. Vachokue women, working in pairs, dragged baskets 
against the current (Plate LXXXV, Figs. 1, 2). 

AGRICULTURE AND COOKING 

Osila is the Umbundu word for the granary which stands on 
wooden supports (Plate XLIV, Fig. 1) ; this osila is for the restricted 
family, and there is one osila for every house. The Ovimbundu 
store their corn in bulk, but in the Esele country I noted that the 
cobs themselves were carefully packed. Each Ocimbundu girl culti- 
vates a small patch of ground, the produce of which she is at liberty 
to sell in order to buy brass ornaments, beads, and palm oil. 

In addition to maize, barley, oats, and wheat, with here and 
there a little rye, are occasionally grown. There are three colors of 
beans, red, white, and black. There is no attempt to keep the varieties 
separate, so they cross-fertilize freely. The Ovimbundu try to 
cultivate a surplus of beans and maize which they use to pay their 
taxes to the Portuguese, likewise to sell at the stores of traders. 

Corn is pounded on the rock which has been used for generations 
after it has been consecrated by sprinkling the blood of a chicken. 
Pounding begins as early as five o'clock in the morning, before sun- 
rise, and from that time to sunset the pounding-rock is in use. The 
rock is evidently regarded as a meeting place for social intercourse; 
it is undoubtedly the center of village gossip so far as the women 
are concerned (Plate XXXVI, Fig. 2). 

As corn alone is considered a poor food, it is sprinkled on boiling 
water to which beans are added. Cooking goes on from early morning 
to sunset over a slow fire. Children sometimes receive as their 
evening meal a thick plastic cake of mushed corn to which green 
leaves of a squash are added. 

There are five kinds of manioc resembling one another in general 
appearance, but the Ovimbundu distinguish the plants, and reserve 
for each what they consider to be appropriate preparation. The 
method varies for sweet and bitter varieties of manioc. 



Economic Life 147 

Olungunga is not a sweet manioc, so is not eaten raw. The roots 
are placed to soak in a stream for three or four days before they are 
roasted on a fire, after which they may be eaten with impunity. 
As an alternative the roots may be dried in the sun; they are then 
pounded into meal which is scattered into boiling water so that a 
mush is formed. The Umbundu name for this preparation is iputa 
viutombo, meaning "mush of manioc." The leaves of olungunga 
are not soaked in water; on the contrary, they may be cooked as 
soon as they are gathered, but they must not be eaten when warm. 
There is no danger in eating them after they have been boiled and 
have been allowed to become cold. The leaves are served with 
salt or fat. 

All the manioc, with the exception of olungunga, is sweet. 
Kandona has roots which may be eaten uncooked, but both leaves 
and roots are sometimes cooked in water. Other varieties of manioc 
known as otetu, elemba, and esela are eaten in the same way as 
kandona. Manioc is in use all the year, but the greatest quantity 
is consumed in November and December, a period when the growing 
corn is not ripe and the storage supplies have dwindled. 

Sweet potatoes are plentiful all the year with the exception of 
the months of November and December. They are placed in the 
pot, without removal of the skin, and boiled for a period of twenty 
or thirty minutes. They are taken out, peeled, and eaten. Euro- 
pean potatoes are sometimes peeled and made into a mush. The 
variety of garden produce naturally depends on proximity to a 
trading post, a mission, or some other European settlement. 

In propagating manioc a stem is cut off from the parent plant 
which is about three feet high ; but probably two or three years pass 
before the tubers are considered large enough for use. Sweet potatoes 
are planted in January, but there is very little of this food available 
in February and March. Toward the end of March or early in April 
a few potatoes may be ready for consumption. 

Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea, Leguminosae) are planted in October 
by women who prepare patches of ground which are drilled with holes 
one inch deep and eight inches apart. One nut is placed in each hole 
after the shell has been removed. Above the ground small leaves 
appear. After the flower-stalk withers it has the peculiarity of 
elongating and bending down. In this way the young pod is forced 
underground, and the seeds mature a little way below the surface. 

Some natives employ irrigation by leading small channels of 
water from a hillside stream to a garden containing maize and 



148 The Ovimbundu 

bananas, but one could not say that irrigation is generally practised, 
even when circumstances permit. 

The papaya and the banana are increasingly cultivated, but 
they are by no means generally distributed. Here and there I 
have seen a little sugar-cane cultivated by natives for their own 
use. Near the main railway natives may be seen selling their 
products, which include cabbages and tomatoes. Some natives are 
today planting the guava tree which yields sweet palatable fruits. 
The fruits olosia are collected from the usia tree. When ripe, the 
fruit is yellow, round, and about two inches in diameter. These 
fruits are gathered in September, and the kernels, which are about 
the size of walnuts, are eaten uncooked. No fruits are collected for 
storage. Olombula fruits ripen in October, when they are eaten raw. 

Each wife sends the food which she has cooked in her own kitchen 
to the onjango ("council house"). After carrying the food to this 
house of assembly, where the men meet each evening, the women 
return to their houses to eat alone, or with the young children. 

When there is a plurality of wives each has her own house and 
kitchen. Ngonga states that separate kitchens built outside the 
living houses are becoming more rare. The poor have their kitchens 
in the living room because they cannot provide separate structures 
for living and cooking. 

The first meal is taken between five and six o'clock in the morning, 
the most usual food being meal sprinkled on boiling water to form 
a paste which is eaten with sweet potatoes. A mush of beans is 
eaten at night; generally there is no meal at midday. Three pounds 
of cooked beans are eaten by a person for one meal. Over the cook- 
ing pots leaves are placed to keep in the steam, especially when 
the pot contains sweet potatoes. I have made a meal from the 
sticky, gluey paste which results from sprinkling meal on boiling 
water. The chief objection to this food is the unpleasant quantity 
of grit in the meal, owing to the fact that it is pounded on the rocks. 
Manioc and sugar-cane are chewed at irregular intervals of the day. 

The amount of meat consumed by the Ovimbundu is small in 
comparison with the quantity of vegetable food used. This adoption 
of diet of a particular kind is largely a matter of habit, and there 
is no good reason why meat should not form a larger proportion of 
the food supply. The Ovimbundu do not kill their cattle for food 
though they will eat the meat of oxen which have died from natural 
causes. 



Economic Life 149 

The flesh of goats, sheep, and pigs might be more frequently- 
used if these animals were bred and cared for under some system 
of animal husbandry. The Ovimbundu are familiar with the preser- 
vation of meat by smoking and drying it, because flesh of animals 
killed in the chase is sometimes preserved in this way by hunters, 
yet the method is not widely and constantly applied in order to 
assure a regular supply of meat. 

Failure to utilize the milk of cattle and goats is another example 
of the neglect of useful commodities. The Vacilenge, who are near 
neighbors of the Ovimbundu, milk their cows as do the Ovimbundu 
themselves in some districts, though the practice is by no means 
general. Even where cows are milked, butter and cheese are not 
made, though the Ovimbundu know of the process, which is practised 
by the Vakuanyama of southern Angola. 

There are three kinds of beer. Ocisangua is a sweet beer which 
even children may drink because it is not intoxicating. Water is 
heated slowly in the pot but not boiled; meanwhile meal of Kafir 
corn or maize is added. Pounded sweet potato is strained in such a 
way that the liquid part goes into the beer pot; the residual mush is 
given to pigs. After the beer has cooled out of doors, it is trans- 
ferred to a large gourd and allowed to stand over night. Next day 
it is considered a fit drink to consume or to offer to visitors (Plate 
XXIII, Fig. 3). 

The making of an intoxicating beer ekundi proceeds as for 
ocisangua, but instead of adding strained liquid from sweet potatoes 
a root called ombundi is included in the brew. The large pot con- 
taining this beer is covered tightly and allowed to stand untouched 
for twenty-four hours, at the end of which time it is a potent drink. 
It is important to note that the corn is allowed to sprout in the ground 
before it is made into the infusion to which the root ombundi is added. 

Ocimbombo is a strongly intoxicating drink. In order to prepare 
this brew, corn is soaked for a week; then it is left in the ground 
for the same length of time until it has germinated. It is then 
pounded on the rocks and placed in large pots filled with water to 
which sweet meal of corn is added. Simmering over the fire is 
continued for two days with constant stirring. This brew differs from 
ekundi in the longer germination of the corn and the longer period of 
simmering. On the fourth day after the simmering is completed the 
drink is said to be ready for consumption. If the people have honey, 
they add some to the brew on the third day of standing. My inform- 



150 The Ovimbundu 

ant said, "Sometimes a man who has drunk this beer will sleep on 
the ground all day and say nothing." 

Salt is a welcome gift in all parts of Angola. Native tribes appre- 
ciate its culinary value but show no eagerness to barter for the com- 
modity. At the present time salt is sold in every trader's store, but 
in earlier times the substance had to be obtained along caravan routes 
from the coast and was therefore more highly prized than it is today. 
The Ovimbundu realize the value of salt in the diet of cattle; therefore 
the animals are occasionally driven to a salt lick in the hills. The 
Ovimbundu do not use this salt for their own diet, possibly because 
the salt enjoyed by the cattle is some form of potash and not sodium 
chloride. 

The Vachokue extract salt from the leaves of a river plant by 
burning it to ashes which are soaked and strained. This is a common 
African method, but I did not hear of it among the Ovimbundu. The 
probability is that the Ovimbundu have always obtained salt from 
the coast. 

In connection with cooking and brewing beer, methods of making 
fire are of importance. 

Matches are coming into use among the Ovimbundu, but the 
necessity for them is not great as the hearth fire is not extinguished. 
In the center of each hut is a fireplace made of three hearth-stones 
over which logs of wood are placed with their ends in the fire which 
is kept alight by pushing the logs forward from time to time. A 
blaze is made by breaking off bark from the logs, placing it on the 
center of the fire and blowing. Fire is carried from one place to 
another by conveying a smoldering log. In the Esele country boys 
may be seen setting off at dawn to scare birds in the corn field, 
each carrying fire with him. 

Usually the children or some other members of the family sleep 
on mats close to the fire, which requires no attention other than a 
pushing forward of the logs. 

The Vasele make fire by the twirling method, and at Ngalangi 
the same procedure was witnessed. In the twirling method two 
different kinds of wood are used, soft wood for the base and hard 
wood for the twirling stick. The twirler used at Ngalangi was a 
piece of cane into the end of which a piece of hard white wood was 
secured by binding. Ngonga, my interpreter and informant, thinks 
that any man of the Ovimbundu could make fire by the twirling 
method if the necessity arose, but the performance witnessed at 
Ngalangi led me to doubt the truth of this statement. The operator 



Economic Life 151 

undoubtedly knew the apparatus and the method, but he appeared 
to have lost the dexterity which is necessary for a rapid moving of the 
hands from the bottom of the twirler to the top. There was conse- 
quently a long period of smoldering before the flame appeared. 

Among the Vachokue a little wooden box of tinder, a piece of 
quartz, and an iron blade are carried for fire-making. From an Esele 
man a bag containing tinder and quartz was obtained. 

The making of fire ceremonially in connection with ritual and 
sacrifice is described among the functions of the medicine-man, 
because the sacred and profane uses of fire are quite distinct. 

Tobacco is a very important item of trade. The cultivation is a 
domestic industry followed usually by women but to some extent by 
men. In former days when the Ovimbundu traded extensively in 
Africa every man had a field of tobacco which he himself cultivated. 
At the present time each man is likely to have a mound of tobacco 
plants in the middle of a corn field (Plate XXIX, Fig. 1). Women 
do sometimes cultivate tobacco near their huts, but in this case 
the little plantation must be strongly fenced. Goats are numerous, 
and they eat the leaves of the tobacco plant with avidity. 

Toward the end of September, when the rains begin, tobacco 
seed is sown on a patch of ground a yard square to raise seedlings 
which are planted out in October. A few flowers only are left to 
produce seed. As a further effort to improve the quality of the 
tobacco many of the lower leaves are removed. The cutting of 
leaves intended for use as tobacco is done by men in the months of 
February and March; women and children assist if the field is large. 

After the midrib has been removed from each leaf, the leaves are 
suspended from the roof in a bundle. At the end of five days, when 
the leaves have turned brown, they are twisted into a long straight 
roll which is hung in the sun for three days. At intervals the roll is 
twisted in another direction. This gradually exposes all parts of the 
leaves, so that the drying is thorough. There are three methods of 
making up the rolls: ombola is an oval roll; ongalo is the round coil; 
ocine is the name given to tobacco which has been dried and twisted 
round a stick. Tobacco-pipes are varied in size and design (Plate XV, 
Figs. 1-3) ; those for men are larger than those used by women. A 
mixture of tobacco and hemp is smoked in a water-pipe made from 
the horn of a cow. Details of structure and ornament are given under 
"Wood-carving." 

In order to make snuff a piece of dried tobacco is slowly baked 
near the fire on the end of a pointed stick which is turned frequently. 



152 The Ovimbundu 

The snuff is pounded and placed in a small wooden box of cylindrical 
shape. Usually the box is ornamented with incised, burned patterns. 
The Ovimbundu of Bih6 add ashes of wood to their snuff, so producing 
a mixture called ulelemo. The Ovimbundu of Elende usually use the 
snuff without adulteration. Two main species of tobacco plants 
are grown. 

Women smoke in all parts of Angola. The Ovimbundu do not chew 
tobacco, neither have I seen it so used elsewhere in Angola. Boys 
and girls are not allowed to smoke before the age of thirteen years. 

In the ombala of the Vangangella near Ngalangi, I asked a girl 
for her pipe which I desired for my collection. The interpreter took 
the pipe when she proffered it, explaining that, according to local 
custom, I had asked for the girl. If I took the proffered pipe from 
her hand I accepted her. Another social custom associated with 
tobacco is the passing of the communal pipe from hand to hand in 
the men's council house. 

Ngonga, my interpreter, says that he has never seen an Ocimbundu 
woman smoke hemp, but he has seen a woman of the Vangangella 
(people to the east of the Ovimbundu) smoking hemp. Hemp 
(epangue) is cultivated only by the Ovimbundu men who smoke it. 
Pure hemp is smoked in the water-pipe which is not passed from 
hand to hand. Only tobacco is used in communal smoking. Smoking 
of hemp or tobacco consists of a few deep inhalations; there is not 
usually a prolonged placid smoking. When hemp is placed in the 
bowl of the water-pipe it is covered with large grains of sand or a 
piece of tin. This intervening substance prevents the hot coals 
from coming into contact with the hemp. The object is to secure 
slow ignition. 

DOMESTIC ANIMALS 

The principal domestic animals are cow (onjindi), ox (ongombe, 
which is also the generic name for cattle), bull (onui), sheep (omeme), 
goat (ohombo), pig (ongulu), dog (ombua), chicken (osanji) (Plates 
LV, LVI, LVII). 

The transport animals, donkey, horse, and mule, are not used by 
the Ovimbundu of Elende and not to any extent by Ovimbundu of 
other parts; but in the south of Angola the Vakuanyama have sturdy 
ponies and well-kept mules. The ox when ridden by Portuguese 
is provided with a leather saddle which is very comfortable if 
covered with a blanket. The brass stirrups are broad and massive. 
Through the septum of the bullock's nostrils there is a short brass 
rod to the ends of which the reins are attached (Plate XXX, Fig. 1). 



Economic Life 153 

I have seen an Ocimbundu male riding an ox without saddle. A 
cord was passed through the animal's nose to serve as reins. 

The Portuguese name for horse is cavalo, a word which the Ovim- 
bundu use in the form okavalu, though there is an Umbundu word 
ocingongovala, which means "going with his neck up." The Umbundu 
words for donkey and mule are ocimbulu and omula, respectively. 

Generally speaking, the ears of animals are not clipped, neither 
are cattle branded or otherwise marked to indicate ownership, but 
sometimes the ears of pigs and goats are cut to aid identification. 
When asked why the tips of the ears of dogs are mutilated an Ocim- 
bundu will say that a dog with uncut ears does not hear when called 
(Plate LVI, Fig. 2). 

Not many families own large herds of cattle among the Ovim- 
bundu, and I did not see a big kraal until I was in southwest Angola. 
Cattle, which are a measure of wealth, are used for paying fines, 
making funeral feasts, paying debts, and securing wives. The cattle 
throughout Angola are well-developed, handsome animals (Plate 
LVI I, Fig. 1). The bull remains with the herd the entire year; there 
is therefore no particular season for the birth of calves. Usually cows 
are not milked by the Ovimbundu, consequently these people have 
no milk, butter, or cheese. The Vakuanyama of the south milk their 
cows and churn butter in calabashes slung on a pole. 

The Ovimbundu say that milking the cow makes the calf thin, 
but where the idea of milking the cow is borrowed from the Portu- 
guese the Ovimbundu have a procedure which is as follows: The calf 
is allowed to suck for a few minutes in order to deceive the cow; 
then the milker begins his work. At intervals of a few minutes the 
calf is allowed to suck in order to continue the deception. 

Cattle are killed at the funeral feasts of the rich, and the horns 
of the slaughtered animals are generally mounted on a pole in the 
vicinity of the grave (Plate XLVI, Fig. 2). 

The horns of the cow may be used for making water-pipes in 
which tobacco is smoked, or they may be employed as magical horns 
when filled with medicine. The hide is pegged out in the sunlight 
for one day after it has been scraped; it is then rolled and kept until 
required. When about to be used, the skin is soaked in water for 
one day. The hide is used to cover the tops of stools, to make 
pouches and to manufacture bags for carrying corn. In bygone 
days each king had a wooden box covered with hide, which contained 
his powder and metal when he went to war. The cow's tail is used 



154 The Ovimbundu 

as a sheath for covering the iron shafts of assagais, and it is sometimes 
made into a switch which the rain-maker uses during his performances. 

Bulls are castrated when two years old. The wound is rubbed 
with ashes, salt, soot, and palm oil. Bullocks are used for riding, also 
for pull-carts introduced by the Boers. The herd obtains most of 
its food by grazing. In the dry season grass withers, with the result 
that the animals become thin and stall-feeding is necessary. In 
former days cattle-raiding was a practice of the Ovimbundu, who 
robbed the Vacilenge. It is certain that the Ovimbundu did not own 
cattle when they entered Angola. If the general tradition is correct 
the Ovimbundu came into Angola from a northeasterly direction, 
from the borders of the Belgian Congo as it is called today; this is 
not a cattle-raising region. 

The Ovimbundu of Elende have a joke against the people of 
Bailundu, because the latter on first seeing a cow offered the animal 
some food on a wooden platter. This story suggests that the Bailundu 
people, who are of the Ovimbundu confederacy, did not know the 
animal and its habits as early as did the Ovimbundu themselves. 

Although the Ovimbundu do not usually kill their cattle they 
may do so in the months of June and July, because at this time 
pasture is withered and food is scarce. Animals which are diseased, 
aged, or injured, are killed and eaten. 

The native pig is distinguishable from European breeds by its 
long thin snout and slender development. This breed is said by the 
Director of Animal Husbandry, Humpata, to be the Keltic breed 
(Plate LV). There is, he says, no evidence to prove that the 
Ovimbundu have at any time domesticated pigs from the wild hogs 
which are to be found in Angola. There is no family which does 
not own a pig, and on the whole the pig fares much better than the 
sheep or the goat. The pig receives water and a daily ration of food, 
which is usually sweet potatoes and their leaves, together with some 
corn. Male pigs are castrated at any time between the ages of six 
months and one year by an operator who is a paid specialist. The 
fee for castrating a bull is four yards of cloth, but a small gift is 
considered sufficient reward for performing the operation on a pig. 
If a pig is thin, the leather is said to be of good quality and therefore 
suitable for making sheaths for knives. Usually the flesh of the pig 
is eaten shortly after the animal has been killed, but the meat of the 
bullock, on the contrary, is sometimes dried over a fire and preserved. 
But this is not a general practice as the animals are too valuable to 
be slaughtered. 



Economic Life 155 

Goats are more common than any other animal; there are few, 
if any, families which do not own one or more goats. These animals 
are not fed or watered. Goats are able to exist on almost any kind 
of vegetation; consequently these animals are, almost without excep- 
tion, well nourished. Goats are not milked. Kids are born at any 
time of the year, and the young males are castrated. The hides are 
used for making bags. The goat has the misfortune to be the most 
desirable sacrificial animal. This is not entirely due to the fact that 
it is cheap and easily obtainable. The sheep is said to be unsuitable 
as a sacrifice, because it does not make a noise when killed. The 
hair of the goat is used for making an ornament named osala, which 
is worn by medicine-men. 

Sheep are of the long-tailed Syrian breed. Like the goats, the 
sheep are not cared for in any way; they find their own pasture and 
water, and in doing so may wander for a considerable distance, though 
they always return to the village at sunset. The males are not 
castrated. Sheep are not so frequently kept as are goats and pigs. 
The skin is used for making bags. Twin births of calves, kids, or 
lambs are not regarded with awe; on the contrary, such births are 
welcome. 

Almost every man keeps one or more dogs, and I have rarely seen 
a hut in which there were no dogs. Usually young puppies are near 
the fire, and on the whole dogs are well treated because they are 
valuable in hunting. They also give warning of the approach of 
hyenas, lions, and leopards. I have frequently seen a person run 
into the road to pick up a dog when an automobile is approaching. 
A tendency to improve the breed of dogs by crossing the lean native 
animal with a breed of large dogs from South Africa has been men- 
tioned. In contrast with the generally considerate treatment of dogs 
by the Ovimbundu one has to note the very emaciated and diseased 
condition of dogs in the Esele country. Among the Ovimbundu dogs 
are regarded as desirable food. 

Sacrifice of a dog at the inauguration of a blacksmith will presently 
be described. A medicine-man who is about to perform a ceremony 
for curing the sick has to make a meal of dog's flesh, but otherwise 
the flesh of the dog is taboo to him. These points of ceremony, taken 
in conjunction with the food value of the animal, and its use in 
hunting, show that the dog is highly esteemed. 

Poultry are of very mixed breeds. The standards of size and 
weight are higher than is usual in African chickens, a fact which is 
perhaps attributable to contact of the Ovimbundu with the Portu- 



156 The Ovimbundu 

guese for a long period . The chicken is highly esteemed as a sacrificial 
animal, but it could not be said that the flesh is in common use. This 
failure to develop and utilize to the full, again raises the point of 
social custom and economic habit. Chickens are cared for, as may 
be seen in the way they are cooped at night. Sometimes a hen may 
be seen sitting on her clutch of eggs in a dark corner of a hut, unmo- 
lested by people and dogs; yet it is certain that there is no concen- 
tration on the rearing of poultry. 

Eggs are laid, and chickens are hatched throughout the year, 
except in the months of November and December when corn supplies 
are at their lowest ebb. Eggs are boiled, or fried on a fragment of 
pottery, but they are not sucked. 

The domestic cat is not raised by the Ovimbundu. Wild cats are 
common, but there is no evidence of their domestication. Small 
birds and monkeys are sometimes kept as pets. 

Trade and Transport 

Caravan trade, which was at one time an important factor of 
tribal life, is now confined to short journeys for transporting corn, 
beans, and beeswax to traders' stores. But in spite of present-day 
decline of transportation the memory of more prosperous times 
still exists. 

Names of distant places survive in the Umbundu language; thus 
Tanganyika is called Nakandundu, while the name for far eastern 
Angola is Muacimbundu, the name of a one-time important chief. 
The Umbundu language is understood in all parts of Angola, far 
away from typical Umbundu centers of culture. 

In the old days there were professional leaders of caravans, and a 
ceremony was conducted before starting. The medicine-man and the 
village chief were the principal performers in a rite which consisted 
of bringing from its box the head of a former chief, sewn in oxhide. 
An animal was sacrificed so that the blood could be used for sprinkling 
on the chief's head, and on some occasions of this kind the head was 
sewn up in a new piece of oxhide. Direct appeal was made to the 
preserved head by the reigning chief, who asked for good fortune on 
the journey. 

The medicine-man who accompanied a caravan carried with him 
a female wooden figure decorated with feathers (Plate XXI, Fig. 5). 
When a branching of the paths gave rise to doubts concerning the 
correct way the wooden figure was consulted by the medicine-man. 



Economic Life 157 

At the present time a day's march is twenty-five miles, during 
which a man carries sixty pounds, while the load for a woman is half 
that weight. The gait of the Ovimbundu includes a limp at every 
step, so suggesting that the carrier is lame or tired. This appears 
to be a method consciously adopted as a protection against fatigue, 
because all muscles are momentarily relaxed. Loads are carried on 
the head in a long forked stick to which they are lashed. When the 
carrier rests, the load is not placed on the ground, but is held upright 
on the stick (Plate XXX, Fig. 2). Such a method avoids the strain 
of lifting the load from the ground after each rest pause. 

Although the Ovimbundu have an exchange of products among 
themselves by both barter and the use of Portuguese money, there 
are no large markets, with the exception of those at the coastal 
towns of Loanda, Lobito, and Benguela. There is absolutely nothing 
in Angola which can be compared with the great markets in Nigeria. 

Despite the absence of a system of exchange on a large scale, 
the Ovimbundu have many terms describing units of measurement. 
There are native standards of length, area, and capacity, but no 
measures of weight which are undeniably of Umbundu origin. 

The unit of length (epaluma) is the distance from the tip of the 
thumb to the tip of the middle finger when the hand is outstretched. 
The term for two of these units is apaluma avali. These words are 
the plural of epaluma; avali means two. These units are used to 
measure tobacco before it has been coiled. 

Cloth is measured by stretching the arms to their full extent in 
line with the shoulders; the distance between the tips of the middle 
fingers is epeka. The stride for measuring land is elianga. 

Onjimba is an area about twenty-five feet square. Etemo ("hoe") 
is an area of land two hundred yards long and thirty feet broad. A 
large field covers two or three atemo. 

Measures of capacity are provided by various types of baskets. 
The large conical basket (ohumba) has an interwoven mark which 
indicates a measure for corn, meal, and beans. Ocitenge is a coarsely 
made basket used as a unit of capacity. Uhamba is a basket two 
feet long and one foot deep. The basket on a rectangular base is also 
uhamba, but at the present day cans are taking the place of all these 
old measures. Palm oil is measured in a gourd (ocitau or ombangi) 
of definite size. This little gourd is also used for measuring a viscous 
substance from trees. The word ekokoto is used to describe this 
mucilage. 



158 The Ovimbundu 

Balls of wax and tobacco were, and are now, definite standards 
of trade. To some extent rubber as a medium of exchange has been 
used through contact with eastern Angola. The Umbundu word 
ocilila expresses a weight of about thirty kilos. 

There is no measure for minutes or hours. I have seen a man 
of the Luchazi tribe keep account of the number of days taken on a 
journey by cutting notches on a stick. Ngonga says that the Ovim- 
bundu reckon by cutting notches, also by knotting a piece of string. 
Three days would be expressed by the words akumbi atatu ("three 
suns")- The word day or sun is used in fixing a time. There is no 
word for week. A month is osai, which is the word for moon. When 
the corn is ripe the people say, "We are in a new year." Another 
yearly time mark is the arrival of the first rains, probably in the 
middle of September. 

The words oku lima ("to cultivate") yield the word ulima, which 
designates the period between the beginnings of two rainy seasons. 
Corn is planted about the time of the first heavy rains, which occur 
in late September or early October. Naturally, this important occa- 
sion forms a somewhat uncertain time base; nevertheless it is the 
one used to express the lapse of years up to five in number. After 
such a period the estimation of time is unreliable. 

Industries 
iron-work 

Among occupations of primary importance is that of the black- 
smith (ocivinda). Owing to the increasing importation of hoe blades 
and other iron goods, together with the facilities for collecting scrap 
iron, the winning and smelting of iron is increasingly rare. There are 
probably very few places where the old type of conical clay furnace 
now exists. Almost any fragments of iron are melted at the forge 
where a box is kept to hold nails, hoop iron from packing cases, and 
other fragments resulting from proximity to a European culture. 

Nothing is mixed with the iron, neither is there any casting in 
molds. The only process is the forging of red-hot iron. The Ovim- 
bundu do not draw iron wire, although they know of the process 
which is practised by the Vachokue. 

The work of the blacksmith was studied at the village of Njongolo 
in Elende. The men were for a time reticent respecting the nature 
of their training and the ceremony of initiation, but the chief of the 
village helped considerably by persuading the men to speak freely. 



Economic Life 159 

Any boy who wishes to become a blacksmith may be trained for 
the work. It is not necessary that his father should have been a 
blacksmith. When the youth begins his training he must be eighteen 
years of age and physically robust. His first duties are the beating 
of hot iron on the anvil; he is also required to collect and soften 
fragments of iron. He works very hard but is never allowed to finish 
anything; the master has to complete the work. 

At the end of two years the youth asks the master blacksmith 
to examine him. What is more important still, the master is asked 
to make the heavy hammer (onjundo), which is used for beating hot 
iron on the largest anvil (Plate XXXVIII, Fig. 1). There is no 
doubt as to the sacredness of this hammer, which is a symbol of the 
completion of apprenticeship. There is also the idea of the master 
handing on his skill to the pupil by personally making and presenting 
the tools. I made repeated efforts before being able to purchase one 
of these hammers ; finally it was procurable only at a high price. The 
value is due to ritualistic associations, the large quantity of iron used 
in the making, and the labor required to weld the head to the shaft. 

On the day of his inception the boy has to purchase four chickens, 
two male and two female, one pup, and a goat. The master black- 
smith makes all the tools for the apprentice, but ritual centers chiefly 
in the fabrication of the big hammer (onjundo). While the master is 
making this the boy stands on the small anvil which is close to the 
ground, between the forge and the large anvil under the tree. 

When the hammer (onjundo) is made, and while it is still red-hot, 
the handle is pushed into the belly of the dog. The goat and the four 
chickens are then killed. All the tools are brought together so that 
blood from the slaughtered animals may be sprinkled over them. The 
flesh of these animals is eaten with corn and beans. "The blacksmith 
calls many people to help him, and they like to eat the food," con- 
cluded my interpreter. 

During the entire ceremony, also throughout the feast, the boy 
stands on the anvil. There he remains until the master says, "You 
may speak and tell us what name you want." Perhaps the boy says, 
"I am Ndumbu." The people in the crowd clap hands and make a 
trilling with their fingers in their open mouths. The boy steps from 
the anvil; he is a blacksmith. My interpreter continued, "He must 
work hard and people must pay him. He used to work hard, but the 
master took the money." 

There was an ancient belief that a blacksmith owed his skill 
to the help of the spirit of a person he had killed. Wooden effigies 



160 The Ovimbundu 

of the murdered man were placed near the large anvil (p. 163), or 
they might be kept in the home of the blacksmith. Such figures are 
still used (Plate XXI, Fig. 3) but the killing of a victim is not now 
possible. Blacksmiths are free to marry without restrictions other 
than those imposed by the classificatory system of relationships. 

The blacksmith's forge is a thatched house about twelve feet 
square with low eaves that almost reach the ground. The height 
from the floor to the point of the dome is fifteen feet. In the middle 
of the floor is a pit ten inches deep in which there is a quantity of 
charcoal brought from the charcoal burner's fire about half a mile 
away. At the sides of the pit are three stone seats for the workers. 
Two of these seats are occupied by men, each of whom works a pair 
of bellows. The two-chambered bellows is hewn from a block of 
wood in such a way as to give two circular air chambers from which 
wooden tubes lead to the fire. These wooden tubes are continued 
by clay tubes which project into the fire. Over the two round 
wooden chambers a piece of hide is stretched and tied over the wood- 
work. Two slender upright sticks, which the operator works up and 
down, are attached to the hide. In one corner of the hut there is a 
heap of charcoal, and in another corner lies the scrap iron. An iron 
rake with a wooden handle is used for stirring the charcoal in the fire. 
Plates XVI, XXXVII, and XXXVIII illustrate tools and processes. 

The principal tools are: 

(1) A flat stone anvil resting on rocks under a tree. The anvil is 
at such a height that the striker stands upright. At this anvil the 
metal is beaten with the heavy hammer onjundo. 

(2) Onjundo, the most sacred of the tools, is 12.5 cm long. Its 
value is about that of an ox. 

(3) There are tongs which can be clamped by a sliding metal ring. 
The larger tongs are 63 cm long and the smaller ones are 35 cm. 

(4) The cutter is boat-shaped and triangular in cross section. 
The back, which is grasped in the hand, is 0.5 cm thick, tapering to 
a fine cutting edge. 

(5) An iron holder for an axhead during the heating and ham- 
mering is 23 cm long. It is octagonal, hollow, and fits like a sheath 
over the shaft of the axhead. 

(6) For heating the iron on the small anvil, after it has been 
roughly pounded to shape with the hammer (onjundo) on the large 
anvil, there is a smaller hammer (usonjolo) of which there are three 
varieties. These differ only in size. 



Economic Life 161 

The principal products of the forge are axheads, which can be 
reversed in the shaft so as to form adzes. Hoe blades, tools for mat- 
making, brass bracelets, knives, and implements for gouging out the 
pith of gourds or hollowing out a drum, are also made. Arrowheads 
are likewise an important manufacture. 

The blacksmith makes a saw blade, 47 cm in length, from hoop 
iron. The teeth of the saw are turned alternately to the right and 
left and the serrated blade is roughly hafted in wood (Plate XVI, 
Fig. 4). Another product of the forge is an iron tool hafted in wood. 
The pointed blade, which is round in cross section, tapers to a point 
used for boring holes in wood, after the tool has been made red-hot. 
Small axes, many of which are used ceremonially in dances, have 
remarkably well-fashioned blades decorated with punched designs 
in the form of geometrical patterns. 

WOOD-CARVING 

A glance over the list of trees named and used by the Ovimbundu 
indicates a complete knowledge of woodcraft which is in the hands 
of specialists. To name only a few, there is the omanda tree, also 
the omue, which yield charcoal for the smithy. Ombula wood is used 
for stools, while the elastic timber from the omanda tree is suitable 
for bows. The ekenge, usamba, and ociyeko trees supply bark for 
binding crosspieces to the upright poles when making the frame- 
work of a house; the same bark is used by Ovimbundu and Vachokue 
of eastern Angola for making bark cloth. In addition to the use of 
bark for these purposes it is made into large cylindrical receptacles 
for maize, while its use for beehives is general throughout Angola. 
Beehives are often made by professional hunters. A traveler notices 
the mutilation of trees from which complete cylinders of bark have 
been removed (Plate XL, Fig. 2); half of the cylinder makes a 
receptacle for carrying on the shoulder. 

When a small pig is to be transported, four holes are bored in the 
bark container. Through these holes the legs of the animal are 
placed and tied together on the under side (Plate XXXI, Fig. 1). 
This is a more humane transportation than that of tying the feet 
of the animal to a pole which is supported on the shoulders of the 
two men who are carriers. 

In the neighborhood of Cangamba fishermen make and use canoes 
of bark about fifteen feet in length (Plate LXXXV, Fig. 2). This 
illustration shows a man taking his nets into midstream where they 
will be pegged to the river bed. 



162 The Ovimbundu 

The tools used by the wood-carver are the saw, ax, adze, and knife. 
The products of this craft may be conveniently divided into the 
following groups: 

(1) Figurines of human form (Plate XXI, Figs. 1-6). 

(2) Animal forms, chiefly snakes, tortoises, birds, and lizards. 
The dog is sometimes represented (Plates XIX, Figs. 1-5; XLI, 
Fig. 1). 

(3) Parts of musical instruments, such as drums and the base- 
boards of sansas. The latter often have the metal keys mounted on 
boards decorated with elaborately incised patterns (Plates XLI, 
Fig. 2; XXII, Fig. 5). 

(4) Domestic implements and utensils, chief of which are heavy 
wooden beaters for flattening mud floors of houses, grain pounders, 
stools, cups, platters, bowls, and a heavy pestle and mortar (Plates 
XIII, Fig. 3; XVIII, Figs. 1, 2). 

(5) Carved sticks and clubs; these often show elaborate incised 
decorations of geometrical patterns. Frequently the head of the 
stick is carved to represent a human head or a full-length figure. 
The ornamented stick or club is carried as part of the personal dress 
and artistic equipment. The throwing club is usually a straight stick 
with an undecorated knob at the end (Plate XX, Figs. 1-10). 

(6) Carved wooden posts representing the human form. These 
are set up at the wayside. One has been obtained from a grave near 
Bailundu. 

(7) Tobacco-pipes and snuff boxes (Plate XV, Figs. 2, 4). 
Figurines of human form require special consideration, because 

they have claims other than that of aesthetic expression. The figures 
representing Europeans, or natives using some article of foreign 
introduction, illustrate the grafting of foreign ideas on older 
methods of work. 

The art of the African Negro has of late years been accorded a 
place of honor in critical circles of Europe and America (P. Guillaume 
and T. Munro, Primitive Negro Sculpture, New York, 1926). 
Usually, however, the formal technique of lines, curves, and the 
general aesthetic effect have been discussed to the exclusion of 
the ethnological background which determines style and function. 

By far the best example of carved human figures collected in 
Angola was the one from Cangamba (Plate XXI, Fig. 4) . This female 
figure, 60 cm high, is carved from hard, dark, red wood in such a 
way as to achieve a graceful result by the employment of a few 



Economic Life 163 

straight lines. The legs show the usual flexion of the knees and a 
shortening which is out of proportion to the body length. The lower 
limbs of most Angolan figures have these characteristics. The body 
of this figure is hollow and the head detachable. The incised head- 
dress is imitative of the coiffure of Vachokue women. 

Cangamba, a village in eastern Angola, is a confluence of tribal 
elements, namely, Vambuella, Luchazi, Babunda, and Vachokue, 
whose physical appearance, hairdressing, tooth mutilation, and 
tribal marks differ considerably. The man who sold the figurine 
brought it furtively. He was an Ocimbundu, but the work is of 
Chokue origin. The figure, I am informed, was filled with medicine, 
then placed near a patient who was undergoing curative treatment. 

The figurine (ngeve) of a woman having a number of dark feathers 
attached to her back has only one use. A caravan setting out for a 
long journey is accompanied by a medicine-man whose outfit includes 
such a figurine. Should the caravan leader be in doubt when choosing 
between two paths, the medicine-man sets up the image at the parting 
of the ways. He kneels before it and asks questions, then plugs his 
nostrils in order to make replies in a falsetto voice supposed to come 
from the figurine. Thus advised respecting the route to follow, the 
caravan continues its journey (Plate XXI, Fig. 5; p. 156). 

The wooden figure (Plate XXI, Fig. 3) is of exceptional interest 
because of its connection with the blacksmith's craft, which is asso- 
ciated with introductory rites for apprentices. In former days a 
newly initiated blacksmith was expected to disappear for a period 
during which he killed a man. On returning to the work of his forge 
the blacksmith made a wooden figure of which this example, one of 
five obtained, is typical. The spirit of the murdered man took up 
its abode in the effigy and in this way helped with the work. The 
figure, which is of the usual dimensions, namely, 36 cm high, has the 
greater part of its surface covered with reddened earth (pp. 159-160). 

Two figurines (Plate XXI, Figs. 1, 6) were obtained from 
women of the Vachokue tribe in the village of Ngongo, Ngalangi. 
Here the Vachokue and the Ovimbundu mingle to such an extent 
that customs are no doubt transferred from one culture to the other. 
These wooden images are used by childless women, or by women 
whose infants have died. The woman who sold these figures pressed 
them to her breasts to show the manner of use. People standing 
around smiled and nodded their approval. A wooden figure of this 
kind is substituted for a dead twin. 



164 The Ovimbundu 

A common type of small figurine, some of which are female, others 
asexual, is represented by an illustration (Plate XXI, Fig. 2). Such 
little carvings are a normal part of the miscellaneous contents of a 
divination basket described in chapter IX. These figures have been 
obtained from Elende, Bailundu, and Caconda, all of which are 
centers of Umbundu culture. 

In addition to the figurines described, the collection contains 
many more whose use may be conjectured. The interrogation of 
Ovimbundu people indicates clearly that there are specific uses of 
wooden figures which are consulted by the medicine-man. The fore- 
going explanations illustrate the nature of the beliefs associated with 
carved wooden figures, but it is not always possible to elicit a clear 
account of the specific use of each one. 

Consideration of this aspect of the wood-carver's art has an 
important bearing on the culture contacts of the Ovimbundu. In 
studying this question I have instituted comparisons between these 
figures from the Ovimbundu of Angola and similar figures from the 
Kasai area of the Congo region (chapter X). The publications of 
the Musee Congo Beige provide illustrations for comparison with 
the figures in Field Museum's collection. 

The carving of animal forms (Plate XIX, Figs. 1-5) is no more 
than a means of aesthetic expression resulting from accurate observa- 
tions of animal life as recorded under "Nature Lore." Inquiry failed 
to show that figures of animals are, or were at any time, used in rites 
and ceremonies. 

The carrying of a carved stick is essential when a chief is visiting, 
attending a council in his own village, or receiving visitors. The 
ornamental paddle (Plate XX, Fig. 8) was owned by the chief of 
the capital village (ombala) of the Vangangella, near Ngalangi. 

At the death of a chief his staff of office, with his tobacco-pipe 
and sleeping mat, are placed in a small house where such relics of 
deceased chiefs are kept permanently (Plate XLVI, Fig. 1). Plate 
XX, Fig. 6, shows a staff of this kind which was preserved in a 
sacred house in the capital village of Ngalangi, and on the same plate 
are drawn short ornamental clubs which French ethnologists call 
batons de promenade, an appropriate name because of their use as 
part of the full dress equipment. 

The Ovimbundu have specialized in the carving of small objects, 
for, in addition to clubs and staffs, tobacco-pipes and snuff boxes 
are often elaborately carved (Plate XV, Figs. 2, 4). 



Economic Life 165 

The water-pipe of the Ovimbundu consists of the horn of a cow 
into the side of which a short hollow pipe stem is introduced ; at the 
top of the stem is a clay bowl for the reception of tobacco, or a 
mixture of tobacco and hemp. The wide end of the horn is plugged 
with clay, while a hole is made at the tip in order to provide a mouth- 
piece. A gourd water-pipe, similar to that used by the Vachokue, is 
also found among the Ovimbundu. 

Cylindrical snuff boxes are ornamented with incised, burned, 
geometrical patterns. The lid is usually attached to the box by a 
leather thong. One large snuff box is ornamented with three well- 
carved female figures. The smoker's equipment is sometimes carried 
in a leather pouch fastened on a waist belt, or the container may be 
a hollow cylinder of ivory with a leather cap at each end. 

To this information respecting the smoking and snuff -taking outfit 
of the Ovimbundu, some observations on the pipes and snuff boxes 
of other tribes should be added. When making a journey from 
Cangamba to Saurimo I seldom met an Ocivokue man who was not 
carrying a gourd water-pipe for the smoking of tobacco and hemp. 
Such pipes are usually ornamented with brass nails and are finely 
bound with thin brass wire (Plate XV, Fig. 3). One long pipe from 
Ngalangi has a pair of metal tongs attached for taking charcoal from 
the fire in order to ignite the tobacco (Plate XV, Fig. 1). A pipe 
with two bowls, closely resembling some Zulu patterns, was smoked 
by an Ocimbundu woman at Ngalangi. The Vachokue make snuff 
boxes from a yellow wood, which they ornament by burning portions 
of the surface in such a way that the yellow color is here and there 
visible. 

Both men and women of the Vakipungo and Vakuanyama tribes 
carry snuff boxes of conical shape on their leather waist belts. At 
the top and bottom such snuff boxes are neatly bound with brass 
or copper wire. 

DOMESTIC IMPLEMENTS 

At an early age girls become accustomed to the use of the V-shaped 
pounder which is made from hard heavy wood (Plate XXXVI, 
Fig. 2). The small end of the shaft is a convenient thickness for 
grasping in such a way that the knuckles are on the under side of 
the shaft. This is the very reverse of what appears to be the natural 
grip. Women use the pounder with an easy, circular swing so that 
the flat round surface comes into contact with the grain on the rock. 
Endurance in this work is remarkable, and there is no doubt that 



166 The Ovimbundu 

fatigue is avoided by the method of holding and swinging so that 
the work of crushing is done by the weight of the implement. 

Two less usual methods of pulverizing grain are by use of a long 
pestle, which is worked up and down in a heavy wooden mortar as 
shown by Plate LXXXIV, Fig. 1, in which Vachokue women are so 
employed, and the crushing of grain with a cylindrical stone which 
is rolled on a flat slab. This latter method I judge to be very old, 
for on a pre-Umbundu site encircled by stone walls I have seen flat 
slabs of stone and cylindrical rollers. Some of the flat slabs were 
worn extremely thin in the middle and a few were perforated by 
the friction. 

It is noteworthy that there are rocks especially reserved for the 
pounding of grain with the wooden mallet. Such rocks are to be 
found close to every village, and the dedication of a new rock for this 
purpose requires the killing of a chicken whose blood is sprinkled 
on the rock. 

Work of this kind is begun before daybreak. From that time to 
sunset the pounding of the wooden mallets, accompanied by the 
singsong of the women, marks the progress of the day's work. At 
intervals the pounded grain is sifted through the hands and spread 
out on a basket-work tray, which is shaken to separate the fine meal. 
The unbroken and partly broken grain is replaced on the rock for 
further pounding. A small brush of grass is used for bringing together 
the grain which is dispersed by the blows. 

The sole implement used in agriculture, which is entirely in the 
hands of women, is the hoe. Of this implement there are several 
variations according to locality. The Ovimbundu and others of 
Ngalangi employ the form illustrated in Plate XIII, Fig. 10. The 
long handles measuring 85 cm no doubt reduce fatigue by minimizing 
bending. Both hands are used, and, furthermore, the increased length 
of the handles must give a greater leverage. The smaller hoe used 
by Ovimbundu women of Elende has short handles only 51 cm 
(Plate XIII, Fig. 9), while that from the Esele country is distin- 
guished by a broader blade and still shorter handles only 36 cm 
in length. 

Included in the outfit of every Umbundu home is the heavy 
wooden floor beater. This implement, which is fashioned from a 
single piece of wood, consists of a narrow handle, round in cross 
section, and a flat portion for beating the moist, newly made, mud 
floor of the hut. The total length is about 83 cm. 



Economic Life 167 

Not only the carpenter, but almost every Ocimbundu man 
possesses an implement which may be readily adapted as ax or adze 
(Plate XIII, Fig. 2). The wooden shaft, from 50 to 70 cm in length, 
terminates in a narrow grip at one end, while the other end expands 
into a large oval knob into which a circular hole is bored. The 
strong iron blade, one of the main products of the local forge, can 
be removed. If the round tang of the blade is inserted so that the 
cutting edge is in the same plane as the shaft, the implement is an ax. 
On the contrary, insertion so that the cutting edge is at right angles 
to the shaft converts the implement into an adze. When placed 
over the shoulder this implement is used for carrying utensils in a 
fiber bag (Plate XXVIII, Fig. 1). 

Gourds are of three main kinds, which may be found growing on 
the ground or resting on the roofs of houses at the ends of the climbing 
stems that bear them. Ombenge is a gourd which is narrow in the 
middle. It is often converted into a dipper for ladling liquids. The 
narrow neck is the handle, while a round hole is cut in the larger part 
so that the dipper can be filled with liquid. Onganja is round, or 
perhaps oval in form. There is a size used as a measure of capacity. 
Onganja can be used as a ladle by fixing it at the end of a stick. 
Olukuembo has a round body and a narrow hook-shaped neck; like 
the gourd ombenge, it is used as a ladle. 

Gourds are elaborately decorated with incised and burned designs 
(Plate XII, Figs. 1-6). Usually these patterns are geometrical, but 
human figures and animals are sometimes included. Decorated 
gourds from Bailundu, used for containing beer at a wedding, are 
among the best examples of their kind (Plate XII, Fig. 6). The 
owner of a decorated gourd takes great pains to repair a crack with 
rattan, which is threaded through holes bored in the edges of the 
fracture. A large gourd is sometimes carried in a native-made net 
of vegetable fiber. 

POTTERY 

A large and varied collection of pottery has been acquired from 
the Ovimbundu, the Vachokue, and the Vasele. The shapes and 
styles are best indicated by the illustrations in Plate XIV, Figs. 1-5. 

Among the Ovimbundu, only women make pots, which are inferior 
in workmanship to those of the Vachokue and the Vasele. At Elende, 
among the Ovimbundu, I was surprised to find a man making pottery. 
Further inquiry showed that he had learned his craft when young 
in the Vachokue country of eastern Angola. This man, whose work 
was not copied at all by Ovimbundu women, was regarded as a 



168 The Ovimbundu 

specialist whose products were in great demand. Instead of making 
crude patterns with a piece of gourd, as do the Ovimbundu women, 
he presses a brass bracelet round the rims of the pots. The bracelet 
is deeply indented with geometrical patterns which appear on the 
clay (Plate XIV, Fig. 5). This man selects a very fine clay for his 
work, his products are symmetrical, and a polish is given with a 
smooth pebble after baking. Like all other potters of Angola, this 
artisan has no knowledge of the potter's wheel. 

The vessels made by Vasele women, among whom the trade is 
confined to female specialists, are unlike the products from any other 
part of Angola. The chevron design is characteristic, so also is the 
ornamenting of the pot by laying on strips of clay below the rim. 
This is applique" work which may consist of only a few bands of clay, 
or the strips may pass repeatedly round the pot until one-half or 
two-thirds of the surface has been covered (Plate XIV, Fig. 2). 

At Elende two Ovimbundu women were observed during the pot- 
making processes (Plates XXXIII, XXXIV). Woman A built up the 
pot in a basket lined with wet leaves. Woman B pounded the clay 
on a stone with the heavy wooden pounder used for pounding corn 
on the rocks. Between the two women was a gourd of water in which 
A moistened her fingers. Operator B poured water on the clay which 
she was pounding. A made a cup of clay five inches in diameter and 
four inches deep which served as a base on which the pot was built 
up by the coiling process. This cup was placed in the basket contain- 
ing moist leaves. 

The rim of the cup was built in height and breadth by the addition 
of rolls of clay supplied by woman B. As the rolls of clay were laid on 
the edges of the pot, the inside was smoothed with a piece of gourd. 
Meanwhile the outside of the pot was supported with one hand. 
Shaping of the pot proceeded by applying smaller and smaller rolls 
of clay as the neck of the pot was approached. Gentle smoothing 
pressure forced out the greatest breadth of the pot just below the 
base of the neck. A pause was made to allow a partial drying before 
the neck was built up. Ornamentation consisted of making deep 
incisions with a piece of gourd while the pot was still wet. During 
these processes there was constant wetting of the hands. 

The pots were sun dried, then fired several at a time by placing 
them in a kiln of dry grass. Polish was given to a pot while it was 
still hot by covering the surface with liquid made from a tuberous 
root, during which process the pot was quickly turned on a stick. 



Economic Life 169 

When the clay was being mixed an old pot was broken and pul- 
verized so that some of the powder might be added to the new pot. 
There may be the underlying idea of continuity in the potter's art. 
The potters said, Sanga yi pita ("Lest it leak"). There may be 
no purpose other than the imparting of stability to the new clay. 

I was unable to find any trace of ritual except with reference to 
the opening of a new clay pit. When a pit is first opened both men 
and women attend. The head of a chicken is twisted off by a medi- 
cine-man, then the bird is held over the pit by either a man or a 
woman. There is no law or ceremony to determine who shall take 
the first clay from the pit. The art of making pots is in the hands 
of female specialists so far as the Ovimbundu are concerned. Obser- 
vation makes clear that women will go for a long distance to obtain 
clay from the pit which has been opened in a ceremonial manner. 
On their way to such a pit they pass clay which would serve their 
purpose well, but they do not use it. Children sometimes amuse 
themselves by making animals of clay. 

The pottery of the Ovimbundu includes cooking vessels of many 
sizes, water containers, and very large pots for brewing beer (olombia 
vi okukela). 

MATS AND BASKETS 

This occupation illustrates division of labor on a sex basis. 
Baskets are made by women, while mat-making is an occupation for 
males. As with other trades there is specialization. The majority 
of women are able to make baskets though the skill of individuals 
varies. All women who have a knowledge of basketry understand the 
manufacture of dyes. Only a few men make mats; my informant 
thought that perhaps one man in ten would have the necessary skill. 
Such specialization is continued into other occupations; for example, 
only a few men spin cotton thread, while the majority of people buy 
pottery from expert female potters. 

The mat-maker, generally an elderly male, uses two tools, a borer 
and a needle, both products of the native forge. The borer (utomo) 
for piercing the reeds, consists of a long thin blade in a wooden grip. 
The needle (osinja) is threaded with bark fiber and passed through 
the holes made by the utomo. The bark thread is ombanja (plural 
olombanja). 

The sleeping mat (esisa) is made of reeds which are gathered in 
the early morning by a man who wets and binds his material into 
bundles, each of which contains reeds of the same length. The length 
of the reeds varies, of course, with the size of mat he intends to make. 



170 The Ovimbundu 

The name esisa is given to the raw material as well as to the mat. 
The worker begins by laying out the reeds on the ground, side by side; 
then the slender tool utomo is passed through the reeds near their 
ends. This position is made permanent by sewing, and the process 
is repeated at intervals along the length of the reeds (Plate XLII, 
Figs. 1, 2). 

Evinda is a large mat, about 120 cm long and 20 cm wide, while 
each strip of coarse elephant grass is about 3 cm wide. Ability to 
make the rush mat (esisa) is fairly common, but skill in making 
evinda is less usual. The mat evinda has several uses; it may be 
stretched on the floor or bed as a sleeping mat, or possibly it is rolled 
so that the ends can be fastened together; so treated it forms a 
cylinder which may be filled with grain when stood upright on the 
ground. A number of these mats is sometimes used to form a 
temporary storage place or shelter. The technique is of the twilled 
variety in which each weft passes over and under two warps. 

Ocala is a coarse mat made from long stalks which are called 
"elephant grass" by the Boers; the agricultural term is "Napier's 
fodder." The long rods are white and glazed, so forming an artistic 
contrast to the crossbinding, which is of black bark. The technique 
is known as check, a term used to describe a structure in which warp 
and weft pass over and under each other singly. 

The large mat (ocikanga) which is of soft texture shows neatly 
woven, diamond-shaped patterns of dark brown grass. The technique 
of this mat is of the twilled variety in which each weft passes over 
and then under two warps. 

String bags, which are used for suspending gourds or hanging them 
over the shoulder, are made by men only. The root ombundi, men- 
tioned in connection with brewing beer, is used for making string 
bags. Two fibers that have been teased out from the root are rolled 
tightly together by rubbing them between the palm and the thigh. 
Strong rope is sometimes made by plaiting coarse grass; this occupa- 
tion is in the hands of males. 

In basket-making the preparation of dyes is of great importance 
because colored strands of grass are inwoven to make named geomet- 
rical patterns (Plates IX; X). The Umbundu expression for dyeing 
is oku lisa olosovo. 

Red coloring is produced by taking leaves of a plant named evava 

and cooking them in water along with the bark of the tree ukondo. 

Ukondo is the "tooth brush" tree because small pieces of its wood 

are chewed and used for cleaning the teeth. After the grass has 



Economic Life 171 

simmered in this infusion of evava leaves and ukondo bark, it is buried 
in a heap of ashes and earth. These processes produce the red 
coloring. 

Yellow dye is made from the roots of a wild rhubarb (ocilungtduila) 
which has sagittate leaves. The roots are pounded and mixed with 
cold water, after which the grass is placed in the mixture. A pot 
containing the mixture is put on the fire and the contents are boiled 
for half an hour; at the end of this time the grass is an amber-yellow 
in color. 

In order to dye grass black the leaves of evava, the plant used for 
making red dye, are mixed with an iron solution obtained from the 
mud of stagnant pools. If the grass which has been cooked in this 
mixture is not sufficiently dark it is reboiled in the evava-iron mixture 
to which the pounded leaves of ungalo are added. Brown coloring 
is made by mixing the red dye with the yellow. 

Baskets made by the coiling process are the most common type 
manufactured by Ovimbundu women (Plate XV, Fig. 6). The large 
basket ohumba is a woman's field basket in which she carries corn, 
sweet potatoes, and manioc, along with her hoe and pounder (Plate 
XXVIII, Fig. 2). Each coil consists of a large number of strands of 
fine grass which are tightly bound. The coils of the better baskets 
are wrapped with the grass called osoka; this wrapping fastens each 
coil to the preceding coil. Coarser baskets have the coils wrapped 
with strips from the leaf of the screw pine (emanalalo). There is a 
sewing process in which the coils are bound to one another with the 
bark olondovi, which is kept damp during the process. I have seen a 
needle, threaded with bast, used for sewing coils together; the needle 
was rethreaded every time it passed through a coil. Success in 
basket-making depends largely on the ability of the worker to keep 
the coils of uniform thickness. There is constant inspection and 
plucking out of a strand of grass here and there (Plate XXXIX, 
Fig. 2). 

In making basket trays (ongalo), the same coiling process is 
followed, but the work is kept flat. These trays are used for winnow- 
ing corn. Wicker-work is used for making conical traps for small 
game such as hares and rats. Conical fish traps are made of wicker- 
work. Names of patterns, which are of a simple geometrical kind, 
are well known to basket-makers. Sometimes a pattern is woven 
round the basket at a certain height to indicate a generally accepted 
standard for measurement of capacity. 



172 The Ovimbundu 

Among the Ovimbundu are to be found baskets which they them- 
selves seldom copy. These examples are from the Vachokue country 
of eastern Angola. The Vachokue specialize in making winnowing 
trays and rectangular baskets which are twilled by passing each weft 
over two or more warps. 

By this technique, combined with the use of brown and black 
weft and warp, a great variety of geometrical patterns is produced. 
Trays of this kind vary in diameter from 50 to 200 cm. The Vachokue 
also make large strong trays in which honey is exposed to dry. 

In the neighborhood of Cassanga wicker-work baskets are made. 
The warps or stakes are rigid while the more flexible wefts bend in 
and out. At this place there are both Ovimbundu and Vachokue 
inhabitants. 

Women of the Vakuanyama in southern Angola make exceptionally 
neat little conical baskets by lashing coils very tightly. The lashing 
is done in such a way as to leave the outer surface covered with small 
chevron-shaped designs. 

There is an intrusion of European influence which tends to mar 
the work of the Ovimbundu and other native craftswomen. Soft 
dyes produced by methods described are sometimes replaced by 
brightly colored, imported dyes; old ribbons from typewriters are 
soaked in order to extract coloring. The Ovimbundu are imitating 
European forms of basketry in a few centers, though the native 
method of coiling is still used. 

WEAPONS 

The bow of the Ovimbundu is made of hard red wood which 
takes a high polish after use. It is round in cross section and tapers 
considerably toward the ends. The length is usually 150 cm, not 
an inconvenient size in view of the fairly open bush through which 
the hunter has to make his way. The bowstring is made of a thin 
strip of twisted hide, which is looped over each end of the bow by a 
slip knot made of two half-hitches. A shoulder at each end of the 
bow shaft prevents the slip knot from passing down the shaft. In 
some examples only one end of the bow stave is notched. Usually, 
after completing the slip knot, the hunter leaves a surplus of bow- 
string which is wound round the shaft. One bow which is not 
notched has rattan wound round the stave to prevent the loops 
from slipping. 

The bow for shooting bird arrows is small and is used only by 
boys; the string is of twisted vegetable fiber. 



Economic Life 173 

The foregoing description applies to all bows collected in Elende, 
an Umbundu center; neither is there any appreciable difference 
between these bows and those of the Vachokue of the area from 
Cangamba to Saurimo in Lunda. The bows collected in the Vachokue 
region are on the average 10 cm longer than those collected at 
Elende, a structural difference probably connected with the heavier 
arrowheads used by the Vachokue (Plate XVII, Figs. 1-9). 

The Vakuanyama of southern Angola make and use a bow which 
bears very little resemblance to those already described. The arrows, 
too, are entirely different from those used by the Ovimbundu and 
Vachokue. 

The lengths of three bows collected at Mongua, a typical Kuan- 
yama center, are 111, 123, and 123 cm. The bow stave, which is 
made from a monocotyledonous wood, is 5 cm broad in the widest 
part, while the cross section is a flattened ellipse. The bowstring 
is of twisted leather, looped at each end for slipping over the ends 
of the bow shaft (Plate XVII, Fig. 8). 

According to L. S. B. Leakey (A New Classification of the Bow 
and Arrow in Africa, J.R.A.L, LVI, 1926, pp. 259-294), the bows and 
arrows of Angola have not been studied. I am inclined to place the 
bows of the Ovimbundu and Vachokue with Leakey's "knotted 
string bows" (pp. 266-269). 

Leakey states that the technique employed in stabilizing flight 
forms the best basis of classification of arrows, but so far as Angola 
is concerned, the shapes of arrowheads form a basis of classification 
according to locality. Ovimbundu, Vachokue, Vakuanyama, and 
Vasele, have distinctive patterns. Naturally there is borrowing of 
patterns where Ovimbundu and Vachokue intermingle, but, even so, 
there are distinguishing signs of Vachokue workmanship. The 
information respecting bows and arrows of Angola is best presented 
in paragraph form, and comparison of types is facilitated by refer- 
ence to Plate XVII, Figs. 1-9. 

The following arrows are used for killing birds: 

(1) Elende. Ovimbundu boys use a wooden arrow with a heavy 
blunt head which is carved into five nodules (Plate XVII, Fig. 3). 
The head is tanged into a reed shaft and bound there with fine fiber 
covered with wax. The feathers are whole, bent over, and tied. 
The number of feathers varies considerably in different examples. 

(2) Kipungo. The Vakipungo have a wooden-headed arrow with 
nine well-carved barbs (Plate XVII, Fig. 7). The head is socketed 



174 The Ovimbundu 

fairly tightly into a reed shaft bound at the junction to prevent 
further splitting of the shaft. There are four whole, untrimmed 
feathers at the butt; these feathers are bent over and bound. 

(3) Vakuanyama. Wooden arrows having eleven sets of barbs 
are in use. The head is bound into a reed shaft with strong gut. 
Another type of wooden arrow has three sets of barbs with three 
barbs in each set. There are four whole feathers at the butt. 

(4) Vasele. The Vasele use an arrow, pointed with fine pieces 
of sharp bamboo, for shooting lizards (Plate XVII, Fig. 9). 

The foregoing information (1-4) relates only to wooden arrows 
which are used by boys when hunting birds. The following para- 
graphs summarize the structural details of arrows used by men, 
and the data are arranged to call attention to differences in the 
patterns of arrows used by several principal tribes of Angola. 

The Vasele make the arrow shafts of hollow reeds, and into these 
the narrow, ovate, iron heads are tanged and bound in position with 
fine bark which is not waxed. Three unsplit feathers are bent and 
tied to the shaft with fine bark fiber. The nock at the butt of the 
arrow is rectangular in shape and 0.3 cm deep. No quiver was 
observed. 

The Ovimbundu form arrow shafts from hollow reeds, the average 
length of which is 76 cm. All arrowheads of iron are tanged and 
the tangs are inserted in the hollow reeds. A binding of fine bark 
fiber is given, and this is covered with wax. From five to ten feathers 
are used for each arrow. The feathers may be split or they may 
be left in the natural state. The trimming of the feathers is roughly 
executed. The depth of the rectangular nocks is 0.5 cm, and 
splitting of the shaft is prevented by binding the nock with fine 
bark. No quiver was observed. 

The Vachokue of Cangamba, and thence northward to Saurimo, 
make arrow shafts of hollow reeds whose average length (79 cm) 
is a little in excess of those made by the Ovimbundu. The shapes 
of the iron heads are shown in comparison with those of the Ovim- 
bundu (Plate XVII, Fig. 1). All arrowheads are tanged and bound 
into the hollow shaft with bark fiber which is then waxed. The 
feathers are split and bent with a neatness much greater than that 
shown in examples of Umbundu arrows. The rectangular nocks 
are 1 cm deep. No quiver was observed. 

The Vakuanyama make solid wooden arrow shafts having an 
average length of 65 cm. The arrowheads of iron are socketed. 



Economic Life 175 

Three prevailing shapes of arrowhead are conical, narrow ovate, 
and V-shaped. The quills are split, bent over, and tied. The usual 
number of feathers used for each arrow is eight. The workmanship 
is neat and symmetrical. The rectangular nock is 0.5 cm deep. 
A quiver of hide is used. 

In addition to the assagai (Plates XIII, Fig. 8; LXVIII, Fig. 2) 
commonly used by the Vakuanyama and adopted to a very limited 
extent by the Ovimbundu, there are spearheads which originate in 
eastern Angola among the Vachokue, whose blacksmiths are expert. 

Typical spearheads were collected at Munyangi where Ovim- 
bundu and Vachokue cultures meet. The leaf-shaped blade and 
tang have a length of 30 cm and an average breadth of 4 cm across 
the blade (Plate XVI, Fig. 1). The upper part of the tang, made 
for insertion into a wooden shaft, is round in cross section while 
the lower part is square. The blade, which has a keen edge, is well 
graded from a central, raised midrib to the margin. 

I did not observe many spears among the Ovimbundu and 
Vachokue. The former value highly a type of assagai which is owned 
by every man of the Vakuanyama. At Elende and Bailundu I 
obtained from Ovimbundu men assagais identical with those collected 
in the Vakuanyama country. The assagai is made entirely of iron; 
it has a narrow, leaf-shaped iron blade which is socketed to the 
iron shaft. The butt is sharply pointed. The shaft passes through 
a cow's tail on which the tuft of hair remains. Consequently the iron 
shaft is encased in hide for part of its length. 

At Elende I obtained from Ovimbundu men two spears said to 
be a product of the local forge. The flat, narrow, leaf -shaped blades 
were tanged into very rough wooden shafts. Wax was thickly 
smeared over the junction. The workmanship, which followed the 
tanged method of hafting arrowheads, was extremely crude. 

By far the most distinctive knives made in Angola are those 
manufactured and used by the Vakuanyama of the extreme south 
(Plate XVI, Fig. 10). I have never found this knife in use elsewhere 
in Angola, and similar types are to be found only among the Ovambo 
to the south of the Vakuanyama. 

These knives vary in length from 48 cm to 73 cm, with a breadth 
of 5 cm to 7 cm across the scabbard. The general outline is a well- 
balanced ellipse. The wood used is hard in texture and dark red in 
color. On one side the scabbard is left open in such a way as to 
display the blade, which is long, keen, and tapering. A leather 
thong attached to the back of the scabbard provides means of attach- 



176 The Ovimbundu 

ment either to the arm or to the belt of the wearer. The crescent- 
shaped expansion at the tip of the scabbard is sometimes held between 
the toes while the blade is withdrawn. 

A small knife obtained from an Ocivokue man near Saurimo in 
the province of Lunda, northeast Angola, has a black wooden haft 
neatly bound with fine brass wire (Plate XVI, Fig. 2). The steel 
blade of Vachokue workmanship is eminently suitable for the purpose 
for which it is employed, namely, that of carving pipe bowls and 
snuff boxes, which are sometimes elaborately incised. The knife 
has a distribution from Saurimo to Cangamba, an area of intermittent 
Vachokue culture, but I have never observed it in the possession of 
an Ocimbundu. Men of the Ovimbundu have knives of somewhat 
poor quality. The roughly made wooden haft is attached to a 
blade which is protected by a sheath of lizard skin. More frequently 
than not, an Ocimbundu does not carry a knife; neither does he 
appear to have borrowed knives or the art of making them from the 
expert Vakuanyama or Vachokue, who are reluctant to part with 
their tools and weapons. 

A knife used by Vasele men in the region of Vila Nova de Selles, 
in the hinterland of Novo Redondo, resembles one used by the 
Bangala of the Congo (Plate XIII, Fig. 1). The distribution of the 
implement, which is used for cutting branches from trees, is local 
in the Esele country. I have never seen such a knife in use among 
the Ovimbundu or in any other part of Angola. The preservation 
of this peculiar form, in common with other specialized traits of 
Esele culture, is due to isolation of the Vasele among hills difficult 
of access. 

LEATHER WORK 

Leather pouches worn on a broad leather belt are part of the 
essential equipment of a hunter. The pouch usually contains scrap 
metal and powder for muzzle-loading guns. This type of firearm is, 
under present Portuguese regulations, difficult to obtain and still 
more difficult to furnish with powder, which is forbidden to the 
native. Consequently such a pouch may contain only a pipe and 
tobacco. 

The pouch itself is either square, rectangular, or semi-cylindrical 
in shape (Plate XIII, Fig. 6). The hair may or may not have been 
removed from the hide. Some examples show signs of careful work- 
manship in stamping cross-shaped patterns. Brass-headed nails 
are used for decorative effect on these pouches among the Ovimbundu 
of Elende and as far south as Huila. 



Economic Life 177 

In addition to pouches, hide is used by the Ovimbundu for the 
seats of four-legged wooden stools. Before stretching the hide over 
the wooden frame the edge of the leather is cut into strips which are 
interlaced on the under side of the stool (Plate XVIII, Fig. 1). There 
are few evidences of the hide having been dressed; usually the hair 
is attached. The Ovimbundu understand the dressing of hides in 
a crude way. The hide is soaked, after which the inner surface is 
rubbed with ashes. The hair is scraped away and the hide is tightly 
pegged out. Hide was formerly used for covering wooden boxes 
in which a king carried his powder and possessions to war. Scraped 
hide is used to form the tympanum in tubular wooden drums. 

In only one part of Angola, notably in the south among the 
Vakuanyama, is leather used as clothing. Women wear pleated 
skirts of hide and several broad leather belts, while the men have 
small leather aprons in front and behind. Men only are the leather 
workers. The hide is soaked and trampled under foot for many 
hours in order to soften it and make it pliable; the hair is not removed. 
Before leather clothing is worn it is thickly greased with a mixture 
of fat and red powder from tukula wood (Plates LXV, Figs. 1-3; 
LXVII, Fig. 1). 

SPINNING AND WEAVING 

My interpreter Ngonga remembers the use of a heavy upright 
loom about twenty years ago, but this loom is not used at the present 
time among the Ovimbundu. The Ovimbundu have been in contact 
with Europeans for three centuries. This has not been a close and 
permanent contact, but it has been sufficient to account for the 
disappearance of a one-time essential art. There are in Elende some 
very fine raffia palm trees, but no use is made of the leaf fiber for 
manufacturing clothes. Bark cloth is not made by the Ovimbundu 
of Elende, but I have seen the Vangangella and Ovimbundu of 
Ngalangi engaged in stripping, beating, and preparing bark for use 
as clothing, which is formed of one piece wound round the body. 
The bark cloth is not dyed or decorated with patterns. 

Frequently at Elende men are seen engaged in spinning cotton 
which is used for repairs, and not for fabricating garments. The 
cotton is obtained from a shrub which has reddish leaves and yellow 
flowers. The cotton may be seen protruding from the calyx in the 
months of June and July. The man who is winding holds high in his 
left hand a slender stick which is wrapped for a length of two feet 
with fluffy cotton. All work of pressing and twisting the cotton into 
a thread is done by the thumb and index finger of the right hand. 



178 The Ovimbundu 

In the beginning a thread from the fluffy mass on the stick is fastened 
to a corncob or to a potato, the weight of which keeps the thread 
taut (Plate XXXVI, Fig. 1). 

I have never seen a woman spinning and am informed that in 
former days the working of the loom was a task for men only. 

In presenting facts bearing on the economic life of the Ovimbundu 
attention has been paid to the importance of ritual, specialization 
in industry, and division of labor on a sex basis. Clearly, the economic 
life is one of the fundamentals of social structure, while at many 
points it is a field in which the magician works. 

Topography and climate have fixed certain conditions which, so 
far as the Benguela Highlands are concerned, favor agriculture on 
an extensive scale, also the keeping of cattle. In the Benguela 
Highlands a moderate temperature, combined with sufficient rainfall, 
has produced a type of vegetation which provides timbers serviceable 
to the craftsman, together with bush that affords shelter for game. 

The bearing of these economic facts on the probable origins of 
traits, and their assembly to form the tribal life of the Ovimbundu, 
is reserved for discussion in chapters dealing with culture contacts 
and cultural processes. In chapters X-XII the factual material 
presented here under "Economic Life" is correlated with what is 
known of similar activities in cultures surrounding that of the 
Ovimbundu. 



VI. SOCIAL LIFE 

Sexual Relations 

courtship 

There is a certain humor and quaintness of language used by 
Ngonga in describing sexual relations of the Ovimbundu. So far as 
possible the interpreter's style of expression has been preserved 
because of its value in revealing the native attitude. 

When a man begins to like a girl, he looks at her for several 
days. Perhaps the boy will talk to the girl who will tell him to go 
to her father and mother. The boy must ask the parents for a friend- 
ship, which may last for one or two years. During this time the boy 
must not do anything to the girl, and if he tries she ought to tell her 
parents. If a baby were born to them in this time it would be a 
shameful thing. After the boy has told the parents that he wishes 
to marry the girl he must find something to give to them. The girl 
must have agreed to marriage before the boy asks the parents. The 
first token may be no more than a ball of wax or a present of salt. 
This token says, "The girl is mine," and no other boy will ask for 
her because it is understood that she is promised to somebody. In 
former days there were restrictions against marriage with other tribes, 
but in eastern Angola at the present day the Ovimbundu occasionally 
marry with the Vachokue. 

Soon the boy will start building a house on his father's plot, 
because he intends to bring the girl to his father's land. The boy 
must at this stage make a further present to the parents of the girl. 
In the old days he would take about five kilos of salt; but now he 
will take a bottle of Portuguese wine, two or three blankets, or a piece 
of cloth. The people who carry the present must be the brother, 
father, or a male cousin of the suitor. These relatives will say, "This 
is the day we have come for our boy's wife." Then the parents will 
examine the things. Perhaps they will say, "You must bring a better 
blanket." The father or the girl's mother's brother must call the 
relatives of the girl to a council (onjango) where the relatives of the 
boy and girl are gathered. 

The parents say, "We are taking these things for our daughter; 
we hope she will be a good girl and not shame us. She is a good girl 
to us and we hope she will be a good girl in your house." The girl's 
parents turn to her and say, "We should like to hear that you are 
hospitable; give food to your husband's relatives when they visit 

179 



180 The Ovimbundu 

you." There is no infant betrothal. There is not and never was any 
compulsion of a girl in marriage, but slave girls were disposed of in 
marriage by their masters. 

A girl is not allowed to do anything to show that she loves a boy, 
for it would be a great shame for her to tell the boy that she loves him. 
Often a girl who prefers a boy will pretend that she does not like him. 
The Ovimbundu have a story which states that a man said, "I will 
bring my cow to the green grass" ; he did so, but the cow would not 
eat. This expresses the idea that a boy would not like a girl who 
confessed a preference for him. 

MARRIAGE 

The prospective bride chooses one married woman and six unmar- 
ried girls to accompany her to the house prepared by her husband. 
Here a feast consisting of a pig and some chickens is provided by the 
husband for the relatives of both families. For three nights the girl 
returns to the house of her parents while the boy sleeps at his home. 
The married woman and six girls sleep at the house prepared by the 
bridegroom. During these days beer is provided by the boy's parents. 
The prospective husband is ironically addressed as sandombua. 
Ndombua means bridegroom, sa is an abbreviation of isia meaning 
father. The term "father bridegroom" refers to the fact that the 
youth is a potential husband only; the marriage has not been 
consummated. 

On the fourth day the bride brings her supply of domestic utensils. 
These are the cooking pots (olombia) ; the wooden spoons (ovito) ; the 
brush of grass for sweeping (olueyo); some meal; also the pounder 
(upi). For the first month the wife is not allowed to cook in her own 
home; she cooks food in the home of her husband's parents and sends 
it to the council house (onjango) where her husband takes his meals 
with other men according to Umbundu custom. At the end of the 
first month of married life the mother of the husband invites any 
three old women who have been happily married to lay the hearth 
stones in the new home. Each of the old women brings a stone for 
the hearth. A chicken is killed and its blood is sprinkled on the 
hearth stones. While the young wife is preparing food at the new 
hearth, she is helped by the old women. If the girl is stirring with 
the big wooden spoon, one of the old women places her own hands 
over those of the girl. There is this kind of guidance in every action. 

I understand that at the present day virginity in a bride is not so 
highly valued as in former days. The old custom was an examination 



Social Life 181 

of the girl by her husband, and if she were not a virgin he took a hot 
stick from the fire and burned a hole through her loin cloth. "The girl 
began to cry, but she had to take the burned cloth to her mother." In 
such an instance there does not seem to be an idea of guilt. The 
husband had accepted something that was damaged, and the payment 
of a pig by the girl's parents reunited the two young people. In 
former days, also at present, there are boy and girl companions who 
sleep together, supposedly without having sexual connections, 
although they may be seventeen years of age. The girl calls the boy 
ombaisi, and he calls her by the same name. The Ovimbundu 
understand something of the physiology of conception; the woman 
is, however, regarded as only a receiving vessel. "The man puts 
something into her which grows." 

Husband and wife do not sleep in the same bed during the wife's 
menstrual period ; the wife sleeps on a mat at the side of her husband's 
bed. A woman who is menstruating never cooks food, but women 
give mutual aid in this matter. A man with more than one wife 
sleeps either four nights or seven nights with each; the four-night 
cycle is more usual than the seven-night cycle among the Ovimbundu. 
Each wife has a separate hut and kitchen. There is no wife lending, 
but a visitor may be provided with a widow or even with an un- 
married girl. Then the man would have to pay the woman. 

Ngonga was able to give information with regard to homosexual- 
ity. "There are men who want men, and women who want women." 
Ngonga says he has heard people talk about it, and "they think this 
very bad." A woman has been known to make an artificial penis 
for use with another woman. The medicine-man will sometimes 
dress as a woman. Ngonga, who has seen a man dress as a woman, 
stated that the man arranged his cloth like that of a woman, put 
palm oil on his hair, and joined the women to pound corn on the rocks. 
"The other people laughed and spoke bad words to him. His brother, 
father, and uncle beat him," but without producing reformation. 

DIVORCE 

There are many grounds on which a man may secure a divorce, 
but it does not follow that divorce is frequent. On the contrary the 
evidence indicates that the majority of difficulties are overcome by a 
compromise between the relations of the husband and those of the 
wife. The main causes of dissatisfaction with a wife are want of 
ability in cultivating her garden, physical weakness, a habit of 
thieving from the gardens of other women, incompetence in cooking, 



182 The Ovimbundu 

bad temper, too much talking, some physical defect arising from 
childbirth, and infidelity. But the husband usually accepts payment 
from the adulterer, and in that event divorce is not sought. 

If a mother has no milk, there is a likelihood that her children 
will die in infancy ; this is a cause for divorce. Barrenness gives great 
dissatisfaction, but is not necessarily a cause for divorce. Usually 
the husband marries another girl, while the first wife retains her 
position as head-wife. With regard to frigidity my informant said 
that sometimes "a married woman does not want her husband to 
do those things which husbands like to do, or she may want him 
very seldom." The husband is so angry that he may go away 
hunting for a long time. The husband may tell some old people, who 
talk to the girl. If his wife is a good cook, the husband may keep 
her and secure another girl as a second wife. Sometimes the husband 
ties the hands of the girl if she resists him. If a wife is returned 
to her parents on the grounds of her frigidity her husband does not 
receive compensatory payment, but he hopes that another man will 
take the girl and pay him for her. 

Sterility of the male is sometimes suspected, in which case the 
husband tries another girl, possibly with his wife's consent. The 
wife may be allowed to have relations with another man in the hope 
of producing children. The evidence shows that there is definite 
experiment to test barrenness of the woman and sterility of the male. 

In case of impotence (not sterility of the male sperm) the wife 
leaves her husband. In event of barrenness the woman visits a 
medicine-man, who gives her a charm consisting of two cowrie 
shells on a strip of leather which she wears round her neck; a potion 
also will be given her. If the barren condition is due to malevolence 
of spirits, the face of the woman is painted with streaks of red and 
white. Such a woman is said to gain ocitumba. Tumba means "a 
swell," "a rise." 

A woman may divorce her husband if he does not treat her well. 
If he beats her or refuses to give her cloth and palm oil, she will leave 
him; but she will not leave him if he is merely unfaithful. If a 
woman is unhappy with her husband, she will tell her people about 
the trouble. Her father and mother may say, "Go and try again." 

After a year the woman may still be unhappy, in which case she 
goes to her parents. The husband visits his wife's parents to ask 
why she has left him. The parents give reasons and offer to return 
the token he presented for the girl. The return of the husband's 
tokens is usually long delayed because the parents of the girl are 



Social Life 183 

hoping that another man will ask for their daughter; this new suitor 
will have to make payment to the deserted husband. The chief of the 
village is not consulted unless the return of the husband's presents 
is long delayed or is in some way unsatisfactory. A woman who 
claims even remote relationship with the royal family is treated well, 
because her husband is afraid of the influence which may be used 
against him. A woman who returns to her parents takes with her 
the articles she contributed to the home; these are pottery, corn 
baskets, a wooden pounder, and wooden spoons. If a wife returns 
to her parents without telling her husband that she intends going, 
he will beat her if he finds her packing up her utensils. 

The procedure of divorce contains a very human element. When 
a man has fully decided that he would like to divorce his wife, he 
will first of all inform his parents of his intention. The parents may 
advise their son to try the girl for a longer time. 

On the contrary, the parents of the man may be mischief-makers. 
Sometimes the parents will say to the husband, "Do you know that 
your wife is doing these things? It is better you should send her 
away." If the man is fond of his wife, he will take her to another 
place where his parents cannot watch her. When a woman divorces 
her husband to marry another man, she takes to her new home all 
children under three years of age. Older children go to the home 
of her parents. 

The chief of the village has to witness the final ceremony of 
divorcing a woman; but the husband and wife, also the wife's father, 
are the principal people concerned in the divorce ceremony. The 
husband receives from his wife's father a roll of tobacco and a pig, 
then he places leaves and palm oil on the back of his wife. He slaps 
her back saying, "It is finished," after which the woman goes to her 
father or to another man. 

When a woman takes the initiative and has declared her intention 
of divorcing her husband, she returns to her parents as described; but 
the divorce cannot be completed until the husband has been per- 
suaded to perform this ceremony of slapping her back and making 
a ceremonial renunciation in public. 

PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH 

When a woman finds that she is pregnant, she makes and drinks 
an infusion prepared from bark fiber. This is to insure the removal 
of all stringy matter at delivery. Formerly a husband was not 



184 The Ovimbundu 

supposed to have intercourse with his wife during her pregnancy, but 
this custom of continence is declining. 

A pregnant woman in particular must not steal. If she does so, 
her child will refuse to be born until some one present at the confine- 
ment goes out and steals something. 

Eating the flesh of a hare during pregnancy will give the baby 
a split lip. If the flesh of the owl is eaten, the baby will have large 
round eyes. 

The expectant mother must not sit on a mortar, a pestle, or a 
piece of rock; if she does so, labor will be prolonged. 

A pregnant woman takes earth from just outside her door. She 
drinks this in water so that the placenta will be delivered whole. 

A pregnant woman is not supposed to carry anything in her cloth. 
If she does so, the child will have a long head. 

A pregnant woman is a potential corpse. A man ought not to 
quarrel with his pregnant wife and if she says angry things to him 
he should not reply. He would not speak to a corpse in anger; on 
the contrary, he would respect a corpse; he must, therefore, respect 
a pregnant woman. It is a bad omen to see a pregnant woman up 
in a tree. A man who sees such a woman is expected to shoot her. 

If a pregnant woman has scolded her husband and is sorry, she 
goes out to the fields. There she gets her cloth covered with burrs 
then returns home. If her husband begins to pick off the burrs there 
is reconciliation. 

There are several arrangements whereby a woman who has borne 
only girls may secure male births, provided she can find a woman 
who has borne only boys and is anxious to have a girl. The simplest 
way of reversing the births is for the women to exchange belts. The 
belt is a string, or possibly a plaited fiber girdle an inch in width 
which is worn next to the body. From this string depends the 
woman's lower garment. A second way of reversing the births is 
for the women to make an exchange of food through a hole in the 
wall of a hut. The food is handed in on a basket tray. The woman 
inside the hut receives the food while standing with her back to the 
hole; she then places the food under the bed. The tray is handed 
back through the hole by the recipient who still keeps her back to 
the aperture. There is a third method whereby a woman who has 
borne boys may be made to bear girls, and vice versa. The woman 
who has borne only boys gives to the woman who has borne only 
girls, an arrow, a knife, a bow, and an ax. The articles given in 
return are a pounding stick, a broom, a tray and a basket. The value 



Social Life 185 

of this symbolism relating to occupations of males and females 
respectively, is obvious. 

Many women bear children when they are away in the fields, but 
help at home is often given. The mothers of the wife and of the 
husband may not be present at the confinement. No childless woman 
may be near during the confinement or convalescence. The father 
may not be present or "the child would be ashamed to be born." 
Before and during her pregnancy a woman feeds her husband with 
a prickly plant which is mixed in his food; this makes him faithful 
to her. 

The abdomen is bound after delivery in order to keep the uterus 
in position. There is a very small amount of bleeding after childbirth; 
in fact the flow of blood is quite finished in two or three days. The 
nearer the diet comes to that of the white man the greater the bleeding 
at delivery. A pregnant woman may not beat a drum, or she will 
bear a drum. A woman who sees the blood from circumcision of a 
male will not have any children. 

When a female child is born, the umbilical cord is cut with a hoe 
to ensure that the female will be a good worker in the field. The 
cord of a male is cut with an arrow to insure good hunting. A newly 
born child receives a drink of beer, and a cord is tied round its waist. 
This is not for support; it is the string from which, much later, the 
lower garment hangs. Girls do not menstruate until they are fifteen 
or even seventeen years of age. During the months after first men- 
struation a girl advances rapidly from childhood to womanhood. 

The medicines that women take to secure abortions are bitter. 
A woman will refuse quinine because she thinks it will cause abortion. 
It is certain that twins are welcome among the Ovimbundu, but there 
are special observances connected with their birth and death. A twin 
birth is not thought to imply dual fatherhood. Twins are called 
Njamba ("elephant") and Hosi ("lion"). Although twins are of 
opposite sexes each receives one of the two names. Njamba is the 
first born, and Hosi is the second to be delivered. The medicine- 
man holds a ceremony to cure the mother of twins. The afterbirth 
of twins is placed in two gourds and carried outside the village for 
burial by two midwives. The mother of twins must wear round 
her neck the horn of an antelope given by the medicine-man. She 
has to blow this when crossing a river, meeting a crowd of people, 
or seeing a hawk overhead. People laugh at her and in fun say 
that she is a pig or a bitch. "The woman says the same kind of 
words to them." Children may be adopted, but they never really 



186 The Ovimbundu 

belong to the foster parents. When an adopted girl marries, half 
the presents from the husband are given to the natural parents, 
and the other half to the foster parents. 

In a case of triple birth at Ngalangi two infants died at birth; the 
other succumbed after three months. In another instance a woman 
bore three children and in the vernacular of my informant "something 
which was nothing," but all died. In a third case of triple birth a 
woman had a boy and two girls. The boy died at the age of fifteen 
years; the girls grew up and bore children. Albinos do not find it 
easy to obtain wives. I was told that an albino man at Ngalangi 
could not find a wife until he married a widow who had several 
children, because unmarried girls of his own age did not want him. 
One of the charms collected has to be worn by a woman who has 
triplets. The object is a rattle (olusangu), which the woman shakes 
when she meets any one. If she gave an ordinary greeting the 
children would die. 

The greater part of this information was obtained at Ngalangi 
by interrogating women who were questioned in Umbundu by Mrs. 
McDowell. At Elende I asked my interpreter Ngonga to interrogate 
his wife. According to Ngonga a woman must visit a female prac- 
titioner in the first month of her pregnancy. The face and the body 
of the pregnant woman are painted with red, black, and white spots. 
This means that she will have no difficulty in bearing children, 
neither will she have any sickness during the nine months of gestation. 
"When her belly hurts" (i.e., the quickening), the woman goes to 
the same female ocimbanda, who paints lines of white, red, and black 
across her breast. 

The ocimbanda gives the woman a necklace consisting of a strip 
of leather to which two cowries are attached. Experience proves 
that such a necklace is difficult to buy. If the woman has a necklace 
of this kind which was worn by her grandmother, it is a very powerful 
aid to conception, a relief in painful menstruation, and a means of 
securing easy delivery and normal gestation. I could not find any 
trace of an idea relating to the entry of a soul, ancestral or otherwise, 
into the foetus. 

Ongandu is the name for a disease of the genitalia; but Ngonga 
used the word to describe abdominal pain suffered by a woman who 
has had no children. By this I suppose he means painful menstrua- 
tion. The curative root which is given is called kayambua. 

Abortion is never secured by mechanical means. The medicine 
(ihemba) is made from the root of a plant that is boiled in water and 



Social Life 187 

drunk. The concoction is described in Umbundu as ihemba vioku 
tundisapo imo ("medicine to take away belly"). 

When the monthly period begins too early in life, the medicine- 
man recommends that the young girl should wear the cowrie necklace 
worn by her mother's mother. 

A deformed child is destroyed, but not if it has been allowed to 
survive the first day. 

If male triplets are born, two stay permanently with the mother. 
At the age of five years one child goes to the king, whose child he 
becomes. 

When a woman has had relationships with more than one man, 
she will die in childbirth unless the medicine-man is called to cure her. 

In a Vachokue village of eastern Angola I bought a female wooden 
figure. It was explained that this would be nursed by a woman, one 
of whose twins was dead, in order to induce another conception. 
Moreover, the nursing of the figure prevents the death of the second 
twin. The Ovimbundu also use these wooden figurines for replacing 
dead twins (p. 163). 

Children are suckled for a long time; even those of three years and 
older come to the breast. There are instances in which milk is present 
but lacking the nutritive qualities; then the baby is likely to die. The 
matter is simpler when a mother gives no milk at all because the baby 
is given to another woman, but not necessarily to a woman who is 
suckling a child. A baby whose mother has no milk may be given 
to a woman who has not borne a child for many years, and the sucking 
of the child quickly induces a milk supply. This is agreed upon by 
informants at Ngalangi and Elende who have seen a child nursed 
by a woman with withered breasts. Protection is given to the 
fontanelle by covering it with a vegetable gum which hardens. 

Near the chief village of the Vangangella at Ngalangi there is a 
mound decorated with feathers and painted wooden posts (Plate 
XCII, Fig. 1). Childless women are placed on the mound which is 
near a river. They are covered with mud, after which the medicine- 
man sings songs and administers potions. The women go home and 
are made to sit on mounds in their kitchens. These mounds, which 
are made in rows, like earth heaped up after hoeing a trench, may 
be a symbol of successful agriculture and human fertility. 

On looking into the subject of blood brotherhood I found that an 
exchange of blood between two males who swore mutual fidelity was 
at one time common. At the present day an exchange of blood is 



188 The Ovimbundu 

sometimes made between husband and wife, at night and in secret. 
People say that those who exchange blood will die at the same time. 

NAMING 

In addition to the words chosen to describe twins, there are some 
points of importance in connection with the naming of children. The 
father and mother change their names when the first child, male or 
female, is born, but there is no change of name at the birth of subse- 
quent children. In a certain family the name of the first child, a girl, 
was Vitundo. The name of her father, which was Cingandu, was 
abandoned; he became Savitundo, "the father of Vitundo." The 
mother's name of Visolela was changed to Navitundo, "the mother 
of Vitundo." 

If the first child dies, the parents dislike their names; they there- 
fore revert to their original names. When another baby is born, the 
parents again change their names in the way described. A post- 
humous child is called Lusati. A child born after twins is Kasinda, 
which means ' 'to push . ' ' Twins are cal led the Lion and the Elephant, 
or the Elephant and the Hippopotamus. There are no secret names. 
The names of the dead must not be mentioned ; the deceased is referred 
to as "the one who has gone." Children may change their own names 
at the age of about sixteen years, and actually do so if their names are 
distasteful to them. Ngonga's friend, named Katito ("little"), 
changed his name to Mukayita (meaning not known). Ngonga's 
sister, named Ndumbila (meaning not known), changed her name 
to Cilingohenda, which means "It is a pity." I met a chief near 
Bailundu who was called Kandimba, meaning "the Little Hare." 

There may be a change of name during sickness. A man now 
named Katahali suffered sickness in addition to other misfortunes. 
His sickness recurred, so he changed his name from Kopiongo to 
Katahali. The meaning of the former name is not known. The new 
name, Ka tala ohali, means "He who has seen trouble"; Katahali is 
an abbreviation. Another instance of change of name, also in the 
village of Cilembo, was that of a man who changed his name from 
Lumingu to Kaihemba, which means "the one who lives by medicine" ; 
because without medicine he would have died. A sick child may 
receive a bad name, for instance, the name Pig. If one or more 
children have died a subsequent child receives an ugly name with a 
bad meaning. There is no totemism, but children may be named 
after animals. A girl is sometimes named Kambundu ("a little 
frog"). Other names for females are Esenje ("the rock where corn 



Social Life 189 

is pounded") and Cisengu ("a small bird with a long tail"). A boy- 
may be Kangwe ("the little leopard"). 

Names sometimes give an indication of descent. Ngonga's full 
name is Ngonga Kalei Liahuka, Ngonga ("eagle"), Kalei ("one who 
works for the king"), Liahuka (the father's surname). Ngonga's 
sister is Cinyaiiala ("the old basket"). This was the name of her 
father's father's sister. As the father of Cinyaiiala is Liahuka, the 
daughter is surnamed Yaliahuka (ya, "of"). The father chooses the 
names of the three first children whether boys or girls. The mother 
chooses the name of the fourth child whether male or female. If the 
child is a boy, the mother probably chooses the name of her brother 
or of her father's brother. When a first son is born, the father usually 
gives the name of his father; for example, Ngonga's father's father 
was Ngonga. If the first baby is a girl the father chooses the name 
of his sister. Ages are not known, but reckoning of age goes back 
five years by counting the number of times maize has been sown; 
maize is planted each October. The period from sowing to sowing 
is ulima. 

If a man has a child by a woman who is not a wife or a concubine, 
the woman keeps the child for eight or ten years. The man must give 
the mother a cloth in which to carry her illegitimate baby, also oil 
for her hair. Sometimes the girl will go to the father of her child to 
be his concubine, but her parents will not let her do so if he has a 
bad reputation. To bear a child out of wedlock is a disgrace. 

Terms of Relationship 

In preparing the following tables Ngonga was the ego, or male 
speaker, and each term is given in relation to himself, with its 
reciprocal. The tables give firstly Ngonga's own generation, then 
his ascendants, and finally some of his descendants. Tables E and 
F are diagrammatic forms of tables A-D. 

TABLE A 

(See Table E III) 
Ngonga's Own Generation 

Terms in italics are Umbundu names either for persons or for kindred classes. 
Reciprocals are placed in brackets; W.S. means, "woman speaking." 

Ukai wange is my wife; uketu, which means "spouse," is a modern form of 
address for husbands and wives when speaking to each other (veyange, 
my husband). 

Kota or huva is my elder brother (mume wange or manja, younger brother). 

Kota or huvange is my elder sister. An elder brother speaking to his sister 
calls her by name, or he uses the term mbuale. When speaking of her he says 
mukai wange (mume wange or manjange, younger brother). The same terms 
are used in the same way to apply to my father's brother's son, and my 



190 The Ovimbundu 

father's brother's daughter. Similarly the terms manja or kota are applied 
to my mother's sister's son. The former is used if this relative is younger 
than myself; the latter term is employed if the relative is older than myself. 
Mukai is the term for my mother's sister's daughter (reciprocal, manja, 
kota, or huva, means mother's sister's son). Manjange is a general name 
for a mother's sister's child, male or female. 

Upalume describes my father's sister's son (upalume, mother's brother's son). 
The word is also applied to my father's sister's daughter. Marriage with 
a father's sister's daughter is permissible, but it is not favored since the 
offspring of such a union may be stupid. Upalume also designates my 
mother's brother's daughter, who, according to custom, is regarded as the 
most suitable spouse for me. 

Cepua cange. This term is applied to any child of my mother's brother 
and to any child of my father's sister (reciprocal, cepua cange). 

Nawa. The term is used as follows: for my elder brother's wife; (W.S.) my 
husband's younger brother; my younger brother's wife; (W.S.) my husband's 
elder brother; my elder sister's husband; my wife's younger brother; my 
younger sister's husband; my wife's elder brother; my father's brother's 
son's wife; (W.S.) my husband's father's brother's son; my father's brother's 
daughter's husband; my wife's father's brother's son; my father's sister's 
son's wife; (W.S.) my husband's mother's brother's son; my father's sister's 
daughter's husband; my wife's mother's brother's son; my mother's brother's 
son's wife; (W.S.) my husband's father's sister's son; my mother's brother's 
daughter's husband; my wife's father's sister's son; my mother's sister's 
son's wife; (W.S.) my husband's mother's sister's son; my mother's sister's 
daughter's husband, my wife's mother's sister's son. 

This completes the terms of relationship for Ngonga's own generation. 

TABLE B 

(See Table E II and IV, also Table F II) 

First Generation op Ngonga's Ascendants 

Tate. The term is applied to my father; my father's brother; and my mother's 
sister's husband (the word omolange, my child, is the Umbundu reciprocal 
for the English reciprocal terms, son, brother's son, wife's sister's son). 

Mai. The word is applied to my uterine mother, my mother's sister, and 
my father's brother's wife (again the Umbundu omolange is the reciprocal 
for the English reciprocals, son, sister's son, and [W.S.] husband's brother's 
son). 

Aphai means my father's sister, and the term is said to designate a "female 
father." My mother's brother's wife is also aphai (the Umbundu reciprocal 
for either male or female is ocimumba cange, which is the equivalent of the 
English reciprocals, brother's son and husband's sister's son). 

Manu or inanu is my mother's brother (reciprocal is ocimumba cange, which 
means sister's son). 

Cikulume. The term is applied to my father's sister's husband (the reciprocal, 
ocimumba cange, means wife's brother's son). 

This completes the first generation of Ngonga's ascendants. 

TABLE C 

(See Table E I and F I) 

Second Generation of Ngonga's Ascendants 

Sekulu yange. The term is applied to my father's father, and literally means 
my older father (the reciprocal is onekulu yange, meaning son's son). 

Sekulu. The word designates my mother's mother's brother, and my mother's 
mother's sister's husband (the reciprocal, onekulu, means sister's daughter's 
son, and wife's sister's daughter's son). 



Social Life 191 

Kukululu or sekululu. These terms are applicable to my father's father's 
brother, my father's father's brother's wife; my father's father's sister's 
husband; and my mother's father (the reciprocal onekulu describes the 
reciprocals, brother's son's son; husband's brother's son's son; wife's 
brother's son's son; daughter's son). 

Maikulu. This designation, which is derived from mai, meaning mother, 
and kulu, an old person, is applied to my father's mother (reciprocal, 
onekulu yange, son's son). Maikulu also means my father's father's sister; 
my mother's mother; my mother's mother's brother's wife; and my mother's 
mother's sister (the reciprocal is onekulu which equals the English recip- 
rocals brother's son's son; daughter's son; husband's daughter's child; and 
sister's daughter's child). 

This completes the second generation of ascendants. 

Note: Ngonga's wife uses the names maikulu and kukululu for those relatives 
of her husband to whom Ngonga himself applies those terms. These rela- 
tives call Ngonga's wife onekulu. 

TABLE D 

(See Table E IV and V, also Table F II, IV and V) 

Some of Ngonga's Descendants 

Nunulu or uveli is my first-born son. Other sons are omola, meaning child. 
Omola ulume means a male child. Omola ukai is a female child. Uveli 
also means a first daughter (the reciprocal for these terms is tale, meaning 
father). 

Omolange means my child. I apply the word, not only to my own children, 
but to my elder brother's son (reciprocal, late, father's younger brother); 
to my elder brother's daughter; and to my younger brother's son. 

Ndatembo. The word is applied to my son's wife; my daughter's husband; 
my elder brother's son's wife; my elder brother's daughter's husband; and 
my younger brother's son's wife (the same word ndatembo is used for the 
reciprocals of these terms; namely, husband's father; wife's father; husband's 
father's younger brother; wife's father's younger brother; and husband's 
father's elder brother). 

The foregoing classificatory system of relationship is not peculiar 
to the Ovimbundu, but is a cultural trait of many Bantu-speaking 
and some Sudanic-speaking Negroes. The similarity of the Umbundu 
system to those of surrounding peoples in Rhodesia and the Congo 
will be pointed out in chapters dealing with culture contacts. 

When describing marriage rites reference was made to the fact 
that a wife goes to live near her husband's relatives; the system is 
therefore patrilocal. The limited family consists of husband and 
wife (or wives) with their children. The greatest number of wives 
observed in the family of a commoner was four, and in the family 
of a king eleven. A household sometimes contains adopted children, 
also domestic slaves (pawns) who are working to pay off debts for 
their maternal uncles. An extended family may include a grand- 
father and his wife, his sons, their wives and children, and his 
unmarried daughters, with classes and nomenclatures mentioned in 
the foregoing tables. 

The phrase epata lia tate (or aluse) means "family of my father" 
and includes all relatives on the father's side. The words epata lia 



192 The Ovimbundu 

mat (or oluina) mean "family of my mother." These terms seem 
to indicate a bilateral rather than a unilateral lineage. Inquiry did 
not show that there were totems for the mother's or the father's 
people, or that marriage into any particular local group was com- 
manded or enjoined. A village is a unit under the administration 
of a chief (sekulu) and as such is part of a large group of villages 
forming a kingdom ruled by a king (osoma), but such village units 
are concerned with government and warfare, not with exogamy. 

In tracing descent an Ocimbundu gives the names of relatives of 
both the father and mother, but commoners are unlikely to know 
the names of their relatives beyond the grandparent class. The 
children of a king were at one time able to recite many generations 
of ancestors along both parental lines. But if the king had married 
a commoner, as he was allowed to do after choosing his first wife 
from the royal line, the children knew only the genealogy of their 
father. This is obvious since the commoner mother would not be 
likely to know her line of descent. The son of a village chief (sekulu) 
may marry a commoner, but, according to Ngonga, the sekulu, his 
father, "would have a very good look at her." 

Ngonga had not heard of the marriage of brothers and sisters, 
not even in the royal family; the idea of such a union was new and 
repulsive to him. In Umbundu society there would be no necessity 
for such a marriage as that of brother and sister or other close relative, 
because members of a royal family of one part of the country could 
intermarry with members of a royal family in some area far away. 
There might, for example, be marriages between the royal families 
of Bailundu and Ngalangi, which are two principal kingships of the 
Ovimbundu confederacy. 

When asked what would be the fate of a man who committed 
incest with his blood daughter or uterine sister, Ngonga said he would 
be killed by his brother or by his mother's brother. If he escaped 
he would have to go far away so that his people could never see him 
again. If a fine were accepted for incest, the culprit would have to 
pay his own kin "because he had shamed them." 

Table A, Ngonga's Own Generation, calls attention to a plurality 
of terms for brother and sister according to the relative ages of the 
speaker and the person addressed. Moreover, there is a term for 
direct address and another which is used when speaking of a brother 
or sister. 

Ngonga was questioned with regard to forms of address for his 
brothers and sisters other than the children of his uterine mother. 



Social Life 193 

Ngonga actually has a brother by his father's first wife, and for this 
male he uses the same terms as for his uterine brothers. The same 
terms are used for uterine sisters and sisters begotten by his father 
through wives other than his uterine mother. Ngonga said, "If 
people ask you which sister or which brother you can explain it in 
words." 

A wife of Ngonga's father, other than Ngonga's uterine mother, 
is called mai yesepakai; that is, "the mother who is jealous of my 
mother." Mai means "mother," and the remainder of the term is a 
derivative from the word esepa, meaning "woman's jealousy." If two 
women A and B desire to marry the same man and only A is suc- 
cessful, B calls A sepakai. Under similar circumstances a man 
would call his successful rival cikuelume cove. 

There is a distinct word for man's jealousy. In explaining this 
Ngonga said, "When I see my wife look at another man, I have 
ukuelume ["man's jealousy"] in my heart." 

If on the death of Ngonga's father, his mother married again 
this male would be called by Ngonga tate yesepakai ("the father who 
is jealous"). 

A wife calls the children of the family, who are not her own, 
omala vesepakai; that is, "the children who are jealous of the other 
children." A mother-in-law taboo operates. Conversation between 
mother-in-law and son-in-law must always be carried on while the 
speakers stand back to back. 

The foregoing note on a mother-in-law taboo has been supple- 
mented by a letter from Dr. Merlin W. Ennis of Elende, Angola 
(August, 1931). "Mother-in-law and father-in-law taboos seem to 
be directed against seeing each other. The persons involved may 
not see each other. If they meet on the path, one steps aside and 
turns the back while the other passes on. The one passing by goes 
through the motions of seeing no one. If it is necessary to converse 
on some subject, they sit looking in different directions, or one sits 
out of doors and the other within, around the corner of the door. 
This holds equally for a man and his son's wife, and for a woman 
and her daughter's husband. A man may see and talk with his 
daughter's husband, and a woman may see and speak to her son's 
wife, but no son-in-law may eat with a father-in-law, likewise 
daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law may not eat together. Brothers- 
in-law may not eat together unless they have gone through a certain 
ceremony; this also holds for sisters-in-law." 



194 The Ovimbundu 

Table A indicates a wide use of the word nawa for "in laws" of 
the speaker's generation. Thus Ngonga calls the wives and husbands 
of his brothers and sisters nawa without distinguishing them in any 
way. The term nawa has a still wider connotation for it includes 
Ngonga's father's brother's son's wife, and his father's sister's 
daughter's husband. Ngonga's wife said that she uses the word 
nawa for all the brothers and sisters of her husband, for all the 
children of her husband's father's brother, her husband's father's 
sister's children, her husband's mother's brother's children, and her 
husband's mother's sister's children. Reciprocally, all these people 
call Ngonga's wife nawa. 

Table A introduces the question of cross-cousin marriage, which 
is the functional form among the Ovimbundu. My informant said 
that he calls his mother's sister's children brothers and sisters, there- 
fore he could not marry the girls. Neither are his father's brother's 
daughters eligible for marriage with him. The table shows the truth 
of this, for Ngonga calls his father's brother's daughter mukai, mean- 
ing "sister"; she addresses him as kota or huva ("brother"). Ngonga 
also addresses his father's brother's son by the term manjange 
("younger brother") or huvange ("older brother") according to the 
relative ages of the speaker and the person addressed. 

When Ngonga was asked whether he could marry a daughter of 
his mother's brother, he replied, "I could marry her very well indeed." 
A marriage of Ngonga with his father's sister's daughter would be 
permissible but Ngonga said the marriage is not regarded as a good 
one "because the children will be stupid." Ngonga could marry his 
mother's brother's daughter's daughter, or his mother's brother's 
son's daughter. It would also be permissible for Ngonga to marry 
his father's sister's daughter's daughter, or his father's sister's son's 
daughter. 

Ngonga said, "My father's brother is my father, and my mother's 
sister is my mother." When questioned further my informant said 
that a marriage with daughters of these relatives would make him 
ocinyama, which means "an animal." Relatives would say, "You 
have shamed the family." It will be noted from Table B, First 
Generation of Ngonga's Ascendants, that Ngonga's father's brother 
calls him omolange, meaning "my child," for which the reciprocal is 
tate ("father"). Ngonga's father's brother's wife is mai ("mother"), 
and she calls him omolange ("my child"). Ngonga distinguishes 
between his mother's oldest sister {mai yukulu), and his mother's 



Social Life 195 

youngest sister (mat yumalele). Ngonga's father's oldest brother 
is tate yukulu. 

Thus far Ngonga was clear about his eligibility for marriage, and 
in addition to this he was sure that he could not marry a sister of 
his wife while his wife was alive, but he could marry his wife's sister, 
after the death of his wife. The wives of a deceased elder brother are 
divided among his younger brothers, or a man may inherit the wife 
of his mother's brother. Ngonga always laughed heartily at the idea 
of marrying a woman much older than himself. He did not know 
whether he could marry certain older people of the ndatembo and 
maikulu class but thought the idea amusing because of their age. 

In discussing law, inheritance, and slavery, the importance of the 
mother's brother will be indicated, and for this relative there is the 
term manu (or inanu). The manu calls Ngonga ocimumba cange, 
but he calls Ngonga's wife ndatembo. Ngonga's mother's brother's 
wife, also Ngonga's father's sister, are aphai, which my informant 
interpreted as a "female father." 

The use of the word nawa has been explained in such a way as 
to show that Ngonga's wife uses this term for a large class of relatives 
by marriage who are of the same generation as her husband, while 
these people reciprocally use the word nawa. Ngonga uses the word 
nawa in exactly the same way for corresponding relatives of his wife. 

This term nawa is not to be confused with the term ndatembo 
whose connotation is indicated by the following examples. The wife 
of Ngonga applies the term ndatembo to certain of her husband's 
relations who are not of his generation. Thus she calls Ngonga's 
mother ndatembo when speaking of her, but she addresses her 
mother-in-law as max ("mother"), while ndatembo describes the rela- 
tionship between Ngonga's wife and his father. Moreover, Ngonga's 
wife uses ndatembo to describe her husband's father's brother's wife, 
and Ngonga's wife is called ndatembo by her husband's father's sister, 
her husband's father's sister's husband, and her husband's mother's 
brother. These are relatives by marriage but they are not of the same 
generation as her husband. 

Table C, Second Generation of Ngonga's Ascendants, gives no 
particular difficulty. Maikulu includes the paternal grandmother, 
the father's father's sister (great aunt), the maternal grandmother, 
the mother's mother's brother's wife, and the mother's mother's 
sister. Therefore maikulu is a class name for the second generation 
of female ascendants. 



196 



The Ovimbundu 



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Social Life 



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198 The Ovimbundu 

Sekulu includes the father's father, the mother's mother's brother, 
and the mother's mother's sister's husband. The terms sekululu and 
kukululu were used by Ngonga as being synonymous, and therefore 
they have the same connotation. With regard to the term maikulu 
Ngonga seemed clear, but in reply to questions concerning the reason 
for having the terms kukululu and sekululu, he was evidently 
confused. At last he said, "It does not matter, they are the same 
people." Ngonga never hesitated in giving the reciprocal for all 
these terms, which is in every instance onekulu. These terms may 
have been correlated with different functions which have now become 
obsolete. 

The two most important collateral relatives in the parent's 
generation are the father's sister (aphai) and the mother's brother 
imanu). The term for father's sister means "female father." As 
such her relations to ego are similar to those of a father, consequently 
it is not considered right to marry her daughters. The mother's 
brother, on the other hand, is without doubt ego's most important 
relative. The two are linked by a series of reciprocal duties and 
obligations. Marriage of a mother's brother's daughter, or a mother's 
brother's widow, is a correct procedure. The value of the more 
important reciprocal duties is indicated in the following sections 
on law and government. 

There was no possibility of devoting more time to the matter 
of relationship terms, but there is here sufficient to indicate the 
remarkable persistence of the kinship system in spite of three 
centuries of contact with the Portuguese and other Europeans. 
Moreover, the information gleaned by interrogation of Ngonga and 
his wife gives the main points for comparison with systems of a 
similar kind that have been given for Ashanti, Uganda, and Rhodesia, 
by Rattray, Roscoe, and Smith and Dale respectively. These kin- 
ship systems are the same both in general principles and in con- 
siderable detail. 

The foregoing notes and tables were studied by Mr. Zachary 
Taylor of the University of Chicago, who prepared Tables E and F. 
Mr. F. Eggan offered useful criticisms. The Arabic numerals on 
these charts refer to the numbers used to designate terms of 
relationship on the list on page 199. The ego or speaker is Ngonga, 
my interpreter, whose direct line of relationships is shown in Table 
E, while Table F indicates the terms used by Ngonga for his wife's 
relatives. The levels numbered in Roman numerals on Tables E 
and F indicate the generation stratification as follows: 



Social Life 199 

I. Grandparents. 
II. Parents. 

III. Speaker's generation. 

IV. Children. 

V. Grandchildren. 

Numbers on the left of the sign (=) refer to males, those on 
the right, to females. 

The terms of relationship used in Tables E and F are as follows: 

1. Ukai wange. My wife (vocative). 1L Ocimumba. Children of spouse's 

Ngonga s wife calls him veyange, family 

my husband. 

9 tut,.™* ™ n ~>i n ~»™i„~> n „ v™, «- 12. Manu, inanu. Mother's brother 

brothel man ^ ar ^ e - hunger (dir ^ jt 3^^). 

3. Kota, huva. Older brother. 13 ' Kulv " £ n °J d pe *?°° j, n ^" and - 
. „,, , _. . , ,« . „ parent s and grandchild s genera- 

4. Mouale. Sister (vocative). tj on 

Mukai wange. Sister (non vocative). g^ yy^ Male d . 

5. Nawa. In-laws of speaker s genera- parents. 

_ - T . 10n ", T , . ,. 14. Maikulu. Female grandparents. 

6. Ndatembo. In-laws of ascending or , c ^ , , „ , .... , ... 

descending generation. 15 - Onekulu. Grandchild of either sex. 

7 Tate Father 16. Upalume. Mother's brother's or 

ft. Mai. Mother. father ' s sister ' s children - 

9. Aphai. Father's sister (female 17 - Ctfculume. Father's sister's hus- 

father). band - 

10. Omolange. Child, used for speaker's Note: Age distinctions are made chiefly 
family only. in the speaker's own generation . 

Law and Government 

In dealing with marriage rites it was stated that a woman had to 
contribute certain articles to the home; these are the utensils that she 
uses in her daily work. The baskets, pottery, pounders, and brushes 
may seem insignificant, but nevertheless there are rules regulating 
their disposal at death. Her husband will retain some of the articles; 
the remainder will be shared among the deceased woman's sisters. 

The disposal of a widow is a matter for discussion among the 
relatives. The husband makes no bequest to his widow and children, 
though the children may receive a small gift of a pig or some corn. 
The property of a man is bequeathed to his mother's brother or to 
his sister's sons. The eldest brother of the deceased or the maternal 
uncle of the widow takes her to his house along with her children. 
If her father is alive he may take her. Ngonga says that each 
responsible relative says, "It is better that you should take her"; 
at last some one says, "I will take her." 

When explaining the system of inheritance Ngonga was clear on 
two points. In the first place wives and children of the deceased are 



200 The Ovimbundu 

not entitled to inheritance of land, cattle, or anything else belong- 
ing to the dead man. The greater part of the property would be 
bequeathed to the eldest brother of the deceased's mother. 

There appears to be discussion as to the distribution of property, 
but the maternal uncle is responsible for settling disputes. He him- 
self has the first claim, and in Ngonga's words, "If there are quarrels 
about the cattle, land, and other things, the mother's eldest brother 
will settle them." 

The mother's brother has rights over his sister's children even to 
the extent of pawning them to pay his own debts. On the other 
hand the maternal uncle is responsible for the conduct of his sister's 
children. He would have to pay fines incurred by thefts they 
committed, and he provides for his sister's son a wife who is either 
his daughter or his widow. 

Ngonga stated that the maternal uncle does not invariably take 
all the property of a deceased nephew for himself. He may give 
something to the deceased's mother, the deceased's maternal grand- 
father, or to a brother of the deceased. Such gifts appear to be the 
outcome of good will on the part of the dead man's maternal uncle; 
there is no compulsion. Women never inherit cattle or rights to 
the use of land. 

The king is the head of the legal system, though his activities 
as such are not so great as those of the village headman (sekulu). 
The olosekulu (there are usually more than one) of a village witness 
the final act in a divorce ceremony. They used to have charge of 
trials for theft, murder, adultery, likewise the right of settling argu- 
ments concerning the ownership of land. It was the sekulu who 
distributed the land to the extended families when a new village site 
was opened. The maternal uncles settled the minor divisions among 
the limited families. 

There are many kings among the Ovimbundu, but I thought that 
there was a tendency to confuse the titles of osoma ("king") and 
sekulu ("headman" or "chief" of a village). The jurisdiction of a 
king is so well known that any person is able to say under which 
king he lives. Ngonga said definitely that a man of the Ovimbundu 
who was under the jurisdiction of a certain king would have to obey 
the commands of a visiting king, provided they were not in any way 
disapproved of by the king to whom first allegiance was due. 

A chief may demand labor for the building of his house or the 
cultivation of his land. He does not pay for this but usually gives 
beer to the workers; sometimes he secures the labor and gives nothing 



Social Life 201 

in return. Even a slave used to have rights of appeal to the king 
if he were starved and beaten without cause. The king was the prime 
mover in warfare. The whole legal system is at this time 
directly under Portuguese administration though the kings and chiefs 
have minor powers. Ngonga says that complainants who are dis- 
satisfied with the decision of their own chief go to the Fort, meaning 
of course the Portuguese military post, or office of the Administrador. 

There is no doubt that in former days the responsibility for crime 
and debt was transferred to a relative in the absence of the delinquent. 
If a thief escaped, responsibility would rest with a brother, a father 
or a son. The mother's brother was often held to be responsible for 
the misdeeds and debts of his sister's children. The mother's brother 
has rights that extend to the sale of his sister's children to pay his 
debts. For this reason Ngonga says, "If I have done wrong and they 
cannot catch me it is right that he (mother's brother) should pay 
for me." 

I supposed the case of Ngonga having stolen a cow; he has been 
caught but escapes. Ngonga said that the man from whom he had 
stolen the animal would go to his (Ngonga's) mother's brother in 
order to name the price required for the cow, or any other possession 
which had been stolen. If the mother's brother thought the price 
reasonable he would pay. On the contrary, if the price claimed were 
too high the mother's brother would appeal, first to the village chief, 
then if necessary to the king. 

Ownership of land does not appear to have been a source of dis- 
pute. Apparently land was distributed by the chief as explained in 
dealing with village organization. Rights seem to have been well 
defined and there was always enough land for a stranger. When a 
man was going away on a trading journey he might lend his land to 
another who would agree to cultivate it and take the produce for a 
year. I was unable to satisfy myself that land is now, or was in 
time past held to be the property of dead ancestors. The right to 
land depends on its use and allotment by a chief at the time of 
founding a village. A man who intended to be absent would make 
a payment so that he might leave his goods at the house of another. 
The chief would settle any disputes arising from these arrangements. 

The complainant in a suit is called ombile, the defendant is ovilue. 
The name for a witness is uvangi. In the old days a false witness 
had to make recompense to the man about whom he had told a lie; 
he would probably have a beating as well. A master was in every 
way responsible for the actions of a slave. The degree of responsi- 



202 The Ovimbundu 

bility of women is mentioned in describing the penalties for adultery 
and theft. 

The penalties for offences against the king were undoubtedly 
more severe than those imposed for the same offences against a com- 
moner. Ngonga says that the punishments for crimes against a chief 
or medicine-man were, and are now, the same as the penalties for 
offences against any other person. It seems, however, that if the 
chief were a very powerful man, he could claim penalties which 
would have been appropriate for offences against a king. 

A thief was punished by beating, in addition to which he would 
have to pay a fine to the people from whom he had stolen, but he 
rarely escaped without the beating. The thief would be beaten just 
as much for stealing one animal as he would for stealing many. If a 
woman stole from her neighbor's garden, those who caught her would 
tie her and take her to her husband, who would pay compensation 
and then beat her. A child caught stealing would be taken to the 
maternal uncle or to his own father. If a woman stole from relations 
she would probably have no punishment other than a beating. Her 
husband would have to compensate the relations. Stealing honey 
from hives is an offence that is punished according to the general 
laws relating to theft. 

If a man was sentenced to a death penalty, or to a beating, there 
was an official appointed by the king or by the chief to see the 
sentence carried out. This representative was called ukuenje welombe 
which means "the servant, or minister, of the court." 

Ngonga described the penalty for murder saying, "It was a terrible 
thing they did to the murderer. A tight triangle of wood was fastened 
on to his neck by a peg and to this a cord was attached so that he 
was suspended to the roof with his feet barely touching the ground. 
In some instances his head was placed through a hole in the door 
of his house while his body was inside the hut. He had very little 
food or water and people threw things at him. He was kept tied up 
for a month to see whether he could pay something. Suppose he 
could not pay, and nobody would pay for him, he was taken outside 
the village where his head was cut off. If he had many possessions, 
he said on the first day, 'If you will take this thing off my neck I 
will pay two oxen and two slaves.' The payment would be made, 
not to the wife or children of the murdered man, but to the brother 
of the mother of the murdered man, or to the mother of the murdered 
man, or to the son of a sister of the victim. If the murderer 
agreed to make the payment the people kept him tied up until the 



Social Life 203 

fines were in their hands. If he murdered one of the royal family 
he was killed after he had paid the fine." The punishment of a woman 
who has committed a murder is the same as that for a man. 

Ombulungu is the name given to trial by poison ordeal. The 
medicine-man holds out both his hands, in each of which there is a 
potato, only one of which is poisoned. The accused man says, "If I 
have done this thing, this potato will be poison for me. If I have 
not done this thing, this potato will be food for me." The complainant 
says, "If this is not the man who poisoned my brother, this potato 
will be poison for me." They sit in front of the medicine-man, and 
each must take the potato in the hand opposite to him. The poison 
makes a man very sick. His mouth swells so that he cannot speak. 

When a woman was accused of murder her son or her brother 
would take her place in the poison ordeal. A boy of fifteen years of 
age would have the same treatment as a man. "I don't think a girl 
would kill anybody. I never heard about it," said Ngonga. It appears 
that resort was made to a medicine-man when the accused was thought 
to have committed murder by poison or magic. If the murderer used 
weapons, the accuser, who was usually a relative, was entitled to kill 
him with the kind of weapon used for the crime. 

The penalties for adultery were the same as those for murder. 
The woman appears to have escaped punishment, except that "her 
husband would not have her any more." The male adulterer had 
to pay the husband; if he could not pay or escape, the husband had 
the right to kill him. In the old days the price for adultery was two 
oxen, a pig, and a slave. At the present day a man who has com- 
mitted adultery and made payment, possibly takes the woman and 
all children under three years of age. The husband has the right to 
decide whether the adulterer has the privilege of taking the woman 
and her children. An adulterer with one of the king's wives was 
castrated but not killed. He might, instead of mutilation, pay a very 
high price, while he himself along with his sisters and the sons of 
his sisters, would become slaves of the king. If a man could not pay, 
he might be sold as a slave in order to provide money for the fine. 
Criminal law did not distinguish between responsibility for inten- 
tional and unintentional offences. 

It is very difficult to say how much of the old law survives. One 
feels that underneath the ostensible Portuguese rule there is an active 
native life that is resisting subjugation. 

Only two years ago Ngonga paid an ox to prevent one of his female 
relatives from being pawned. Within the past ten years Ngonga has 



204 The Ovimbundu 

actually paid to redeem his brother and sister who were sold to pay 
the debts of his maternal uncle. Officialdom is one thing and actual 
practice is another. Ngonga is right when he says that people appeal 
to the native law as laid down by the chief or king. If they are not 
satisfied they pretend a great respect for Portuguese law and therefore 
go to the Administrador. 

Warfare and Slavery 

The Ovimbundu have been for centuries an organized people 
possessed of a well-developed language, a legal system, and complex 
social organization. In trade and travel too, the Ovimbundu have 
been in the vanguard of African tribes. These reasons, in conjunction 
with the fact of numerical superiority and early contact with the 
Portuguese, would account for the success of the Ovimbundu in 
warfare. The defensive federations existing between the ten or twelve 
main political units, whereby they did not habitually war on each 
other, helped to assure success. Should the eldest son of a king's 
principal wife be thought unsuitable as successor, a competent son 
of the deceased king was elected by a council of village chiefs. 

There is no evidence that the Ovimbundu poisoned their weapons, 
neither do they do so today. The Ovimbundu do not use a shield 
at the present time, neither is it certain that they had shields in 
former times. A skin-covered powder-box was carried in the king's 
train when on the warpath. 

Signaling-drums were about two feet long. They were made 
from a cylinder of wood over the ends of which skin was stretched. 
Signaling, which was accomplished by drumming with the palms 
of the hands, was the task of boys who resided in the king's com- 
pound, except when they accompanied him to war or on a trading 
journey. There was no system of smoke signaling. The iron war 
gong was named ongonge, but the instrument is nowadays tapped 
by the assistant of a medicine-man during his performance. In 
former times the gong was struck in the night to give assurance 
that the enemy was not in sight. 

In war the oldest son of a king or of a chief went ahead of the 
war party accompanied by a few men who wore red leaves on their 
foreheads. 

Intertribal jealousies, raiding for cattle and slaves, also reprisals 
for interference with caravan trade, were the chief causes of conflict 
with surrounding peoples. There was undoubtedly some internal 
warfare within the confederacy. The Ovimbundu of Elende, Bail- 



Social Life 205 

undu, and Ngalangi are said to have had conflicts. In time past, 
as at the present day, a king reigned over territory which was 
extensive but definitely delimited for purposes of administration. 
Encroachment of one king on the rights of taxation and administra- 
tion of another led to raids and reprisals. Village chiefs collected 
taxes in the form of agricultural produce and gave these to the king, 
who personally visited a village from which payments had not been 
made. A folklore story begins, "The people had not paid taxes 
so the king came to the village and told them a parable." 

A king, if young, accompanied his people on the warpath. There 
was, however, a permanent leader named kesongo, a derivative from 
songola ("to lead"). The declaration of war, likewise the tactics, 
were discussed by a council of olosekulu ("village chiefs") in the 
ombala ("capital") where the king had, and still has, a royal com- 
pound. If war had been conducted among sections of the Ovim- 
bundu, the defeated people had to pay taxes and tribute; moreover, 
their women and cattle were taken. In event of a successful war 
against the Vachokue there was plundering of cattle and women, 
but it was not found practicable to exact periodical payments 
from the enemy. 

The subject of warfare is intimately related to that of slavery. 
There was until very recent times a domestic slavery which followed 
from the inability of a person to pay his debts. In connection with 
this reduction of free persons to a condition of slavery there are 
several points of exceptional interest. The debtor himself is not 
taken as a slave, neither are his wife or children. The correct proce- 
dure is a sale of his sister's children; but more frequently the children 
themselves are taken by the creditor. "The debtor's sister will say 
nothing because this is the law of the Ovimbundu." If payment of 
the debt is made later, the children are set free. Usually the word 
pawning is used by ethnologists to describe this proceeding. 

Further consideration of Ngonga's payment to his mother's 
brother clarifies the facts of domestic slavery. "I paid for them, 
I took their place," said my interpreter. The payment for the 
return of these two children was two oxen. The girl, who was ten 
years of age when she was taken to pay the debt, was returned to 
her people when she was a woman with three children. Ngonga's 
brother was not actually taken from his home. He was made to 
pay his mother's brother's debt by working for the creditor. In 
general, these domestic slaves were not ill treated, though their 
rights were limited. The position of slaves taken from a hostile 



206 The Ovimbundu 

people, especially if they were from outside the Ovimbundu, was 
one of absolute and abject servitude. 

The master had rights of punishment including a death sentence; 
but Ngonga says that a slave could appeal to the headman of the 
village if he were starved and cruelly treated. All children of a slave 
became slaves of the master. As the slave had no property he could 
not pay a fine; the master would pay the fine then relieve his feelings 
by beating the slave. Instead of paying the fine the master might 
sell the slave. 

Slaves were not branded or marked in any way. Ngonga has seen 
runaway slaves hunted with dogs. A slave was not allowed to buy 
his own freedom. A master could dispose of his slave girls in marriage ; 
for instance, a young girl might be sold to an old man. The condition 
of the slave is well expressed in Ngonga's own words: "The slave 
worked hard at everything, then the master said he had done nothing." 

Slaves used to go to war to fight with their masters against an 
enemy. A slave might become a blacksmith or a hunter, two very 
esteemed occupations, but all his work would be for the master. 
Ngonga says there was no slave market belonging to the Ovimbundu, 
but every man knew where he could buy a slave. Slaves could act 
as witnesses in a trial. Slave women were not lent out for prostitu- 
tion. A slave owner did not have promiscuous intercourse with his 
slave women, but he chose two or three girls as concubines. A slave 
girl who was married to a free man would revert to her master along 
with her children when her husband died. If a master had married 
his own slave woman she would, at his death, become the property 
of his eldest brother and her children would go with her. In some 
instances the slave woman and her children would be given to the 
son of her master's brother. 

Village Organization 

When choosing a site for a new village, a preference is shown for 
a hillside, though woods or valleys are at times selected. The foot of 
cliffs is a favorite site. In addition to the shade afforded by the cliff 
there was in time past the advantage of being hidden from the view 
of enemies. Further shelter was afforded by the planting of wild 
fig trees. Sometimes an ombala ("capital") was rendered picturesque 
by the planting of trees which grow to a great size; such a plan was 
followed at the ombala of Ngalangi. 

Caves in the wall of a cliff, likewise rugged hillsides, gave a place 
of retreat for women and children during an attack. Usually there 



Social Life 207 

are small streams of pure water falling down the cliffs and hillsides. 
Near Bailundu and Ngalangi, villages still retain their defences which 
consist of high poles set in a trench. 

Judging from sites visited at Elende there was a pre-Ovimbundu 
stone-building culture. One of the sites has such a commanding 
view over extensive plains and valleys that the position would be 
almost impregnable. At the present day the line of fortifications is 
well marked by stone walls three feet high. These are composed of 
boulders to which the builders had ready access on adjacent hillsides. 
Large stones were no doubt rolled from the slopes to the small plateau 
chosen as a building site. This small plain lies midway between the 
hill crest and the valley. 

At present this old site, which is enclosed by lichen-covered walls, 
is overgrown by tall grass and trees attaining twenty feet in height. 
Photography would be uninstructive unless a preliminary clearance 
were made — a formidable task owing to the density of vegetation. 

In the center of the enclosure is a group of transported boulders 
possibly marking the site of a place of assembly. A search among the 
long grass reveals stone slabs and cylindrical crushers which were used 
for grinding grain over a very long period, as may be seen by the wear 
on the base stone; some thick stones are so worn as to be almost per- 
forated. Weather-worn stones that were probably used as scrapers, 
are to be found. Surface potsherds are of the material of which 
present-day Ovimbundu women make their cooking pots. These 
sherds mark the places now used by small nomadic bands, hence the 
surface pottery may have no connection with a pre-Umbundu culture. 

In the vicinity of this walled stone village are hillside cairns 
marking the sites of graves. These have been robbed by medicine- 
men in search of material for their charms. 

The Ovimbundu have no traditions regarding the site, neither is 
there legendary or other evidence to show that the Ovimbundu ever 
made their villages of stone. The raising of a cairn of stones over 
the body of a hunter is, however, a present-day practice near Ganda 
and in the Esele country. 

If a site cannot be systematically worked, it is better left alone 
until scientific investigation is possible. The preliminary clearance 
of grass and timber would be a long process. The archaeological 
material recovered from such a site would be of a uniform and simple 
kind. There is no evidence of anything beyond an elementary stone 
age culture. 



208 The Ovimbundu 

At the present time one type of village is surrounded by stout 
stakes ten or more feet high set in a roughly circular plan. The 
arrangement of alleyways within the village is complicated without 
following any symmetrical plan. A visitor sees only a labyrinth of 
passages between high poles, with here and there a rectangular wooden 
gate at intervals along the passages. The door itself is made from 
four stout heavy planks which are roughly hewn and as a rule undec- 
orated, but occasionally I have seen the panels of a door carved with 
designs representing the breasts of a woman; or there may have been 
simple geometrical patterns. The top ends of the door panels are 
massive spheres of wood bored through with holes. Through the 
holes in the tops of these panels a pintle is passed in such a way 
that the door is suspended from above. During the daytime the 
lower ends of the panels are raised to the level of the lintel. They are 
there supported on a Y-shaped upright which is erected in front of the 
doorway. At night the planks are removed from this support and 
allowed to hang downward in the doorway. There is a sliding cross- 
piece to push over the lower ends. The same arrangement is some- 
times used to make a door for a hut. This old type of village 
doorway, common twenty years ago, is becoming increasingly rare. 

The house of a king or a chief is larger than that of a commoner. 
The enclosure which contains a king's house and the other buildings 
is named elombe, while epandavailo is the word used to describe the 
entrance to this compound. The elombe is built by men and women 
who receive no payment. There is a ceremony when the compound 
is opened. The house of the chief, Kandimba Sanjahulu, near 
Bailundu, is rectangular, with mud walls raised on a platform of 
earth and stones. Whitewash has been applied to the outside of the 
walls and some ornament is given in the form of painted blue crosses. 
Complete study of structural types and the planning of internal 
divisions has been made by F. and W. Jaspert, of the Stadtisches 
Volkermuseum, Frankfort. 

At a village near Cuma the house of the chief differed from the 
dwellings of commoners in being somewhat larger. The house had 
been abandoned, not because the chief died there, but because the 
chieftainship had been transferred to an adjacent village. The tomb, 
which will be described in connection with funeral rites, was a few 
yards from the house. This mausoleum was surrounded by a high 
wooden palisade, to a stake of which were attached the horns of an 
ox killed at the funeral feast, while the jawbone lay in the enclosure 



Social Life 209 

(Plate XLV, Fig. 2). The house of bows for holding sacred relics 
will be described in connection with religion (Plate XLVI, Fig. 1). 

In former days there used to be a hard mud floor for dancing, 
centrally placed in the village. 

In the center of the village is the communal house where all men, 
and boys over four years of age, gather to eat their food, which is 
sent by the women. This onjango is the place of assembly for dis- 
cussion of village affairs. A house of this kind at Bailundu is circular 
in form with a diameter of seventeen feet (Plate XLVIII, Fig. 1). 
In the middle of the onjango are stones forming a fireplace. In 
another such house there were jawbones of oxen. These were 
suspended from the walls as tokens of the payment of fines. There 
is no communal house for females. In some villages there is a 
common kraal for cattle. 

The king's compound usually contains: 

(1) The king's house, which invariably has a separate sleeping 
room. 

(2) A house and kitchen for each of his wives. 

(3) A tomb for the burial of kings and their wives. 

(4) The house of bows for staffs, bows, mats, and tobacco-pipes 
of dead chiefs. 

(5) A house of meditation for the king (Plate LXXXIX, Fig. 1). 

(6) Pens for pigs and chickens. 

The guest houses (Plate XLVIII, Fig. 2) that I have seen were 
not in the king's compound. Granaries, which are conspicuous in 
every village, have been mentioned in connection with food supply 
(Plate XLIV, Fig. 1). Each house has its own granary. I have 
noticed garbage pits containing corn husks and refuse from sweet 
potatoes, but there is as a rule no organized scheme for disposing of 
refuse ; dogs and pigs are the scavengers. There is no particular place 
for defecation; people use the bush. 

Every man has a knowledge of house-building. Women do not 
actually build, but, along with the children, they pour water into 
the clay pit and carry clay to the men who are plastering the walls. 
Ngonga says, "People would be surprised to see a woman building 
a house. They would call her a he-woman." Men help one another 
in house-building by giving reciprocal service for which there is a 
gift of food and beer. 

A deep rectangular clay pit is made as close to the house as possi- 
ble, and the children thoroughly enjoy puddling the clay with their 



210 The Ovimbundu 

feet. A trench about eighteen inches deep is dug for the poles 
(akoso), which form the framework. The wattle work is tied to the 
uprights with strong strips of red bark before the plastering is begun. 
The old type of Umbundu house was round, but most of the houses 
now show a transition to square or rectangular forms (Plate XLIV, 
Fig. 2). 

Exterior wall-painting is found only in the northern districts of 
Angola (Plate LXXXIX, Fig. 2). Between Saurimo and Malange 
in the north, rectangular, painted houses are frequently seen. Wall- 
painting is a cultural trait from the Congo region where that form 
of decoration is common. 

The method of forming a village site and the right of the chief to 
allot land have been described. The house of the chief is the first 
to be erected. There is drinking of beer to celebrate the completion 
of the village, and the pots of beer have to be stirred with the claws 
of chickens; these have been killed to provide blood for sprinkling 
the walls of the new houses. Village chiefs go through the process 
of stirring and drinking. The medicine-man drinks first, then he 
offers the cup to the chief. 

The communal house is built by the united efforts of all men of 
the village. Ngonga says, "The king never helps with any of the 
building, but he talks very much." The guest house is also built 
by communal labor. The king of the ombala of Ngalangi told me 
that a king always uses the house of his predecessor, which must 
not be pulled down. No repairs are permitted and the house is used 
until it is absolutely untenable. 

The interior of a commoner's house has three hearth stones in the 
middle of the floor, which is of hard mud beaten down with a heavy 
wooden implement called ocikandulo. The ceremonial placing of the 
stones has been described in discussing marriage. There is no chim- 
ney, consequently the walls and roof are blackened with smoke. 
The junction of roof and walls provides pockets for the reception of 
small articles. On the floor near the walls may be several large beer 
pots. The dark smoky interior is almost intolerable. The sleeping 
room is sometimes separated from the living room by matting. The 
bed is made from a cross-work of sticks supported on four Y-shaped 
posts, one at each corner. On the bed are coarse sleeping mats and 
possibly a modern blanket. 

The miscellaneous contents of the hut are gourds, dippers, cooking 
pots of several sizes, pounders, and baskets. In many of the huts 
I found cooking going on in the general room, but frequently a sepa- 



Social Life 211 

rate hut is provided as a kitchen. In some dark corner of the hut 
there is likely to be a sitting hen or a bitch with pups. Goats and 
pigs intrude from time to time. Lean dogs scavenge round the 
doorway. Naked little children whitened with dust play on the 
floor. A woman crouches over the cooking pot stirring the glutinous 
mass of corn meal. About sunset men are gathering in the council 
house to which their meals are sent. 

They push forward the logs into the fire, throw their blankets 
around them and chatter until the women and children arrive with 
the evening meal. In the vicinity of the village, boys are wandering 
about with blunt wooden arrows fitted to their bowstrings, to be 
ready for the homeward flight of birds. Other boys are driving cattle 
to the kraal. 

As darkness falls the long tubular drums are brought out. These 
are held between the legs and played in compound rhythm (Plate 
XXVII, Fig. 1). A shuffling dance begins, slowly at first, then with 
increasing vigor, to be continued far into the night. 



VII. EDUCATION 
Industrial Training and Division of Labor 

Usually there is no formality connected with the industrial and 
occupational training of Ovimbundu children. The section dealing 
with play shows that boys and girls learn by spontaneous imitation 
of their elders. 

There are, however, exceptions to this general truth. Special 
rites connected with the training and inauguration of blacksmiths 
and hunters have been described. The training of medicine-men 
and women will be dealt with in chapter IX, "Religion." 

In describing economic life in chapter V, division of labor on a 
sex basis; also specialization in industry because of peculiar tastes 
and aptitudes, were noted. There is clearly a twofold division in 
industrial life. In the first place sex determines occupation, and 
within this primary grouping there is a secondary grouping depending 
on personal preference and individual ability. I have found no 
instance of exclusive hereditary right to any occupation or industry. 

The net result of the Umbundu system of division of labor is 
indicated by the following summary: 

When building houses, men dig the rectangular trench, cut the 
poles for the framework, lash the crosspieces, cut grass and lay the 
thatch, then place clay over the wattle walls. Women carry water 
for mixing the clay and convey the moist clay to the plasterers. 
Children puddle the clay with their feet. Males are hunters both 
professional and general. During a communal hunt women and 
children assist in driving game, which is frightened by the firing of 
grass. Boys organize games in which they imitate these activities. 
Men fish with a line and bait, whereas women use baskets and 
narcotic poison. Men and boys take care of cattle and have charge 
of dogs. Women and girls give what slight attention is afforded to 
other domestic animals. Male specialists castrate bulls and goats. 

During agricultural operations men clear the ground and burn the 
bush. Women carry on hoe cultivation without assistance from 
men. Men are the chief carriers in caravans, but women and 
children may sometimes be seen carrying loads. They march in 
line with the men but have smaller burdens. Males are employed 
in blacksmith's work, wood-carving, making weapons and tools, 
weaving mats, dressing hides, spinning cotton, and formerly in 
weaving on an upright loom. Men are exclusively the makers of 

212 



Education 213 

musical instruments, and males are the musicians. Men are the 
only persons engaged in warfare and administration, and the onjango 
or council house is used exclusively by males. Men follow the 
occupation of medicine-man, in which there is considerable speciali- 
zation. Female practitioners deal with pregnancy and women's 
ailments. In addition to the tasks for women mentioned above, the 
following are staple occupations: collecting firewood, drawing water, 
caring for infants, making pottery, weaving baskets, dancing, and 
singing. Young girls share these activities with older women. 

The foregoing categories explain division on the grounds of sex. 
Degrees of specialization are not so easy to formulate, but in general 
a man follows some one occupation, for example wood-carving. Then 
within this occupation there is specialization in the making of 
drums, domestic utensils, or figurines. 

Almost any woman could make pottery or baskets, but the 
difference in skill leads naturally to concentration in the hands of 
expert potters and basket-weavers respectively. These sell their 
wares to those who either do not make such articles or are inept 
at the process. 

Standards of Conduct, Manners, and Salutations 

The parents of a child, also his maternal uncle, assume respon- 
sibility for training in the precepts and standards given here. The 
maternal uncle, who is the mother's oldest brother, is particularly 
interested because he has to pay fines should his sister's children 
commit thefts. The evidence indicates that the home and restricted 
family have formative influences over the conduct of children. 

Children are beaten if they tell lies, answer old people rudely, 
or steal food. Ngonga says that his "stealing hand" was once placed 
in the hot leaves of the cooking pot. If a child steals an egg which 
is cooking, the hot egg is held between the culprit's hands. 

One cannot fail to notice the quiet and unobtrusive way in which 
children sit in the presence of their elders both in the home and in 
the council house. Children do not speak when their elders are in 
conversation, unless addressed. 

A child, likewise an adult, receives a gift with both hands. The 
implied idea is that reception with one hand is a depreciation of the 
gift. If a child holds out one hand, the hand is slapped. When 
receiving, an Ocimbundu says "kuku," literally grandfather or elder. 
Colloquially the word is used to mean greeting, "I thank you," or 
"I beg your pardon." 



214 The Ovimbundu 

Lying is strongly disapproved and the liar is called ohembi. The 
Ovimbundu appreciate hospitality (unu) which also means generosity. 
A man who is hospitable is said to be ongavi. Greediness, which is 
disliked, is described by the word oku sapa ("to be greedy"). There 
are standards of honesty in sales and exchanges. A deceiver in 
trade is ohembi. 

With regard to the relation of the sexes in early years it may be 
said that, in spite of boy and girl friendships, and the communal 
sleeping of boys and girls at the home of one of the girls, a man expects 
to marry a virgin, a point which has been dealt with in describing 
marriage ceremonies. 

Naturally there is a difficulty in obtaining precise information 
respecting the details of these nocturnal gatherings of boys and girls. 
Ngonga said that girls inform their parents concerning the house 
where the night is to be spent, and there is a point of etiquette 
requiring that girls must not go to a house where boys are staying 
together. 

Standards of conduct already described under courtship are a 
result of direct teaching by parents. Marriage rules and a classifica- 
tory system of relationships, with its prohibitive decrees, are taught 
in the home, in the men's council house, and at initiation ceremonies 
where such exist. In addition to these sources of instruction there 
is no doubt an unconscious absorption of ideas and standards. The 
power of suggestion is always at work through everyday examples. 

Apart from demands made by tribal custom and direct instruction 
there are variable personal standards of modesty. Ngonga states 
that many lascivious stories are told among men, and when the men 
are drunk, they tell these to women. "Sometimes the women laugh, 
but the good women do not like to hear these tales." 

A male commoner when meeting the king bows low, extends his 
arms, claps his palms and says, "ohosi ["lion"] akuku ["grandfather"]." 
Only the old people follow the ancient custom of falling on their knees 
when greeting the king. The Ovimbundu never were in the habit of 
doing more profound obeisance, but the Vangangella, when greeting 
one of their kings, rub their chins on the ground and place dust on 
their chests. Even at the present day a woman or child of the 
Ovimbundu is expected to kneel when greeting a king, but such an 
acknowledgment is not now usual in greetings given by a male 
commoner. The reply of the king to the commoner is "kalunga." This 
word enters into greetings of all kinds. The literal meaning of the 
word is "the sea," "king," "god," or "death," but the interpretation 



Education 215 

of the word depends upon the syllable accented and the context, as 
further explained in the chapter on the Umbundu language. 

A man or woman of the royal family greets the king with the 
words na kuku; na means "lord," and kuku is a term used for any 
old man to whom the speaker intends to show respect. Kuku is also 
applied to a man who stands in the relationship of grandfather. The 
king is expected to reply to a greeting given by one of the royal 
family by placing his right hand on his chest and saying twice, 
"kalunga." There may then follow from the king a question relating 
to welfare in general. Possibly the king will inquire the object of 
his subject's journey. A sekulu ("chief of a village") greets a king 
in the same manner as does a commoner, and the king replies as he 
would to a commoner. 

Commoners greet a sekulu with the words na kalunga ("lord, 
greeting"). One sekulu greets another of the same rank with the one 
word kalunga, accompanied by clapping of the palms. Male com- 
moners clap hands on meeting; this action is accompanied by the 
word kalunga, from each of them. Two female commoners use the 
word kalunga as a greeting, but as a rule they do not clap hands. 
They do, however, clap their palms when greeting a woman of the 
royal house. 

Boys and girls must greet their fathers, maternal uncles, grand- 
fathers, and other old men with either of the terms na kuku or na 
kalunga, the latter being more usual. Na kuku would be the appro- 
priate term of respect for any elderly man. Children use the same 
words (na kuku) when addressing any elderly woman, including a 
grandmother. A usual greeting of a child to the mother, likewise to 
the mother's sister, would be kalunga mai ("greetings, mother"). 

There is no prescribed form of address to the medicine-man. 
Greetings between a commoner and a medicine-man follow the usage 
noted for two commoners. Ngonga says, "They will treat him (the 
medicine-man) like a village chief if he is an old man and good. 
Perhaps they will say na kalunga as if talking to a chief." 

In the early morning people pass the greeting oku lipasula. This 
means "we have been like dead, we are awake." The appropriate 
early morning greeting of a commoner to the king or to a chief is 
oku lipasula a kuku. A usual afternoon greeting is oku lanisa. The 
evening greeting is oku lisuninya. 

One who desires to pass across a room usually walks in front of 
other people, but while passing the attitude must not be erect. The 
thumb and middle finger should be snapped together, while the words 



216 The Ovimbundu 

konyimo oko are spoken. The literal interpretation of these words is 
"back there." Ngonga says the words actually mean "excuse my 
back." 

Spitting in the vicinity of the house of the king or of the chief 
is not allowed. "If you did that in the old days, you would have to 
pay something." Some people spit near the hearth in their own 
houses. A man who spits in the road is expected to cover the spittle. 
No person would spit in the presence of the chief or of the king. A 
hand should be placed in front of the mouth by a person who is 
coughing or sneezing. 

Shortly after the birth of a boy or girl all who are on good terms 
with the parents greet them by saying kalunga. The word is repeated 
four times with clapping of the palms. When words have been 
imperfectly heard and the listener desires repetition it is customary 
to say kuku in an interrogative tone. 

No particular etiquette is observed when eating. Two or three 
children eat from one platter, helping themselves with their fingers 
to the mush or sweet potatoes. 

Rules forbidding the preparation of food by menstruating women, 
likewise prohibitions relating to stepping over a person, are mentioned 
in discussing taboos and omens. 

Educational Value of Play, music, and dancing 

The educational value of play lies in its imitation of the pursuits 
of adult life. Though there are specialists in music, dancing, and 
singing, these exercises are indulged in by everyone. Music, singing, 
and dancing are more than amusements, they are fundamental as 
coordinating forces in tribal life at all levels of culture (W. D. Ham- 
bly, Tribal Dancing and Social Development, London, 1926). 

Among the Ovimbundu Cimbamba Co Lia is a popular game for 
girls, who form a circle, join hands, and sing: 

Part I 

Omola una, ndo sile vekango, Cimbamba co lia ("That little child 
was left in the desert, the nighthawk ate it") . At the word Cimbamba 
they begin to dance, facing from side to side in such a manner that 
they meet and bow. Some sing, Cimbamba co lia ("The nighthawk 
ate him"), and others respond, Kalikisi ("'tis the goblins"), as many 
times as they wish. Finally a return is made to the first words which 
are sung again. All musical transcriptions have been made by 
Dr. G. Herzog from my phonographic records. 



Education 



217 



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The children then form in a line holding each other. The leader 
is the mother and all the others are her children, except one 
who is the leopard. The last child in the line calls, A mai, ongue 
yi ndia ("Mother, the leopard will eat me"). Mother, Ka yi ku li, 
("It will not eat you"). Child, Yi lia utapi wovava ("It is eating the 
water carrier"). Mother, Ka yi ku li. Child, Yi lia utiani wolohui. 
Mother, Ka yi ku li. The one who represents the leopard now 
attempts to pass the outstretched arms of the mother in order to 
catch the child. Every time the leopard is foiled in his attempt 
to catch the child they all cry, Ah-ah-ah Ka yi ku li. 

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ground where it immediately begins to imitate the pounding of meal 
and to sing, Fule, fule, fule, fule, kolohanda ko Luwa ("Pound, pound, 
pound, pound on the rocks of Luwa"). This ditty, which is sung 
by women during their daily occupation of pounding maize on the 



218 



The Ovimbundu 



rocks, is repeated until all the children have been captured. Lastly, 
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Education 219 

says, "Here's your mother." The children look and sing, "She's not 
there." They throw sand in that direction. The leopard repeatedly 
leads to places where the mother is not hidden, while each time the 
same words are repeated and sand is thrown. Finally the leopard 
leads the children to the place where the mother is hidden. Then 
the mourning song is changed to a glad dance. The children clap 
hands and sing, Mai Cisangu weya. Mai Cisangu weya ("Mother 
Cisangu has come"). 

After transcribing the music of this song Dr. Herzog reported, 
"The melodies are rather simple, moving within a restricted range, 
with a plain rhythm, the same short unassuming melodic fragment 
being repeated as long as the game may require it, or changed slightly 
to suit the words. It should be kept in mind that these are children's 
songs; other songs of the Ovimbundu are probably much more 
elaborate. The manner of singing songs by a solo and a responding 
choir is highly characteristic of African singing. Thirds as seen in the 
transcriptions on page 218 are often used in the music of west Africa. 

"In the musical notations, S stands for Solo, Ch for the Choir. 
A as a sign above a note indicates that the tone is sung approximately 
a quartertone higher than noted. It indicates a short transitional tone 
of slight rhythmic or melodic significance and of uncertain pitch." 

There is but one example of children's dolls in Field Museum's 
collection. This was obtained from a little Ocimbundu girl of Elende. 
The doll is made from a corncob which is draped in blue cloth of 
European origin such as women wear. My interpreter said that the 
dressing of dolls made from corncobs is a general custom at the 
time of cutting the corn. In view of the frequent occurrence of 
agricultural rites among Bantu Negroes, the use of dolls led me to 
inquire into the possibility of there being some kind of fertility cult 
associated with a corn-mother concept, but my inquiries met with 
negative results. 

There is an Umbundu word for game (omapalo; plural, olomapalo) 
which is used for games in general. The verb oku papala means 
"to play." As a rule, male adults do not play games, but they have 
the game of mancala which is called ocela. This is difficult because 
it involves quick counting. Mancala has a wide distribution as 
shown by the fact that it occurs in Africa, Syria, the Malay Archipel- 
ago, South America, and the West Indies. At Dom Manuel in the 
southeast of Angola I saw an arrangement of holes in the ground 
which was used for this game. There were four rows of fourteen 
holes in each row. The counters were nuts from an oil palm. 



220 The Ovimbundu 

In the compound of the king at Ngalangi there was an ocela 
board consisting of an oval piece of wood on a short base. This 
board had holes arranged in four rows of seven, twenty-eight holes 
in all. The king refused to sell the board. He said that it was 
highly valued and that the gambling stakes were high. 

Up to the age of sixteen years boys play the game of ocitina. 
Each side has a number of bulbs from a figwort, which are rolled 
along between two lines of boys who shoot at them with arrows. 
The winners are those who have shot the greater number of their 
opponents' bulbs. The party A rolls bulbs while the opponents B 
do the shooting. Then the positions are reversed. A game with 
whipping tops is ongilili which is said to be of Umbundu origin, 
not a derivative from a Portuguese game. There is no evidence 
that games are seasonal; any game may be played at any time. 

Games of mimicry naturally form a diversion, and boys imitate 
the occupations of their elders. The chief activities of adult males 
are warfare, hunting, and carrying, all of which used to play a very 
important part in the communal life up to a few years ago. When 
boys play at making war they have two sides, the attack and the 
defense. The attacking party runs about the village taking prisoners, 
who are tied with bark rope. Girls sometimes play this and other 
games with the boys, but usually boys and girls play separately. 

Sometimes strong boys are selected for hunters whose dogs are 
the little boys. Boys who pretend to be the antelopes or other game 
go to the tall grass to hide. Toy bows and arrows are made, but 
sometimes the hunters go through only the movements of shooting. 
The boys who are pretending to be the game roll over and gasp when 
shot. The "dead game" has to cling to the pole on which it is borne 
to the village on the shoulders of the hunters. The little boys go 
along on all fours barking like dogs. 

The Ovimbundu were, and still are, renowned carriers whose 
prowess is imitated in boys' games. Boys make up loads in the correct 
way; that is, lashed in the fork of two long sticks which can be rested 
on the ground. These they carry along, singing as they go. There 
is some wrestling, also stone throwing to test distance and accuracy. 
Rubber is made into a ball which is bounced rapidly and repeatedly 
with the open palm. Men and boys sometimes form a ring around 
which the ball is thrown from one person to another. 

The Ovimbundu have no game played with string wound around 
the fingers, and I have been unable to find any evidence for the past 
or present formation of string figures. I have seen boys making bird 



Education 221 

cages and wooden animals to use as playthings. Girls mold small 
animals from clay. The bull-roarer is in use as a plaything at Elende. 

There is a game of hide and seek for boys. A knife is hidden; 
then a boy who has been absent for a time enters the ring marked 
off for the game. His proximity to the knife is indicated by playing 
on a musical bow. There are taps on the instrument which mean 
that the knife is far away. On the contrary, when the searcher 
approaches the hidden knife, the boy with the bow plays a distinc- 
tive note, yelula, yelula, meaning "pick it up, pick it up." 

Boys readily make a simple apparatus for playing a game of 
lassoing a hoop. A pliable branch is bent so as to form a circle, then 
the ends are lashed together with bark strips. The lasso is a piece 
of rattan or bark having at each end a corncob or a small stick 
three inches long. One boy bowls the hoop so that it passes in front 
of, and a few feet away from his opponent, who stands twenty-five 
feet distant. As the hoop passes in front of him, the boy throws 
his lasso in such a way that it twines round the hoop and brings it 
to the ground. 

There are dances of many kinds, but Ngonga says that he would 
not know from the steps only what particular purpose the dance 
served. Several dances have been described, each in its appropriate 
section. There are no dances specially arranged to celebrate weddings 
or births. The funeral dance is described along with other ceremonies 
relating to interment. The medicine-man dances in connection 
with making rain or curing the sick. In order to say why the dance 
was being performed, it would be necessary to listen to the words 
of the songs; these are usually chanted in accompaniment to shuffling 
movements and the rhythm of drums. 

Some of the older men and women perform dances and sing songs 
that are unknown to the younger generation. Dancing is in favor 
during the months of May and June because there are supplies of 
maize for making beer. As the dry season advances the maize formerly 
available for making beer is consumed as food, hence dancing is not 
so usual. Ngonga says that the old people know a dance which 
should be performed at new moon "so that there will be no sickness 
during this moon." Older men dance in commemoration of events 
during past wars, while women are spectators, and on these occasions 
there are beer-drinking and the slaughter of an ox. A group of men 
keeps up a shuffling dance while an old man relates a war story in 
a singsong voice. The oldest man is the first to cut the meat, 
after which each man helps himself. 



222 The Ovimbundu 

Almost every evening one may hear the tapping of drums and 
the songs of dancers, because in addition to dances for a funeral or 
other special occasion there are ordinary dances of amusement in 
which lines of men and women advance and retreat, or men and 
women circle round the drums making arm movements accom- 
panied by a swaying rhythm. 

The dance onyaco, performed in June when the corn is ripe, may 
have an ancient history and special significance as part of an agri- 
cultural rite. When corn is being stored the people sing, "There is 
grain in the house, may it never be out." There is no dance in 
connection with fishing. 

There is mimicry of animals in the hunting game played by boys. 
The frog, the leopard, and other animals are imitated in certain 
games, but I have no evidence of the performance of mimetic dances 
in relation to any cult for increasing the supply of animal life. 

The use of the small ball ombunje illustrates the way in which 
an apparent toy can be used in rites of a religious kind. Ombunje 
consists of a hard spherical fruit about six centimeters in diameter, 
in which several hard seeds rattle. The sphere is covered with a 
layer of cloth over which lizard skin is stretched and sewn. 

When the people wish to commemorate the death of a king, or 
when the king is sick, the medicine-man (ocimbanda) says that there 
must be osaka dancing. A strong man dances for many hours while 
holding this little ball in his outstretched hand. Other men who are 
dancing use their fists to hit the muscles of the outstretched arm in 
an attempt to make the holder drop the ball (ombunje). If he does 
so another man will promptly take hold of it. The precise nature of 
the endurance test is unexplained, but there is possibly the idea of 
giving strength to a sick king by this tension and endurance. My 
interpreter thought this was so, but could not explain why the dance 
should be performed to commemorate the death of a king. It would 
seem natural, however, to transfer the ombunje rite to a commemora- 
tive festival, if in the first place it was part of the last rites of a 
dying king. 

There are among the Ovimbundu specialists in dancing, singing, 
and the playing of musical instruments. Onjimbi is the word for 
a singer of merit who starts the choruses. Ocili is a dancer of more 
than ordinary skill. When a man is required to play a drum or other 
instrument I have noticed that it is thought necessary to bring a 
specialist. There is no doubt that drumming requires special aptitude 
and practice. The man who plays the long drum is usiki, the drum 



Education 223 

itself is onoma. The flat wooden drum without membrane is ocingufu, 
the player of this drum is usiki wocingufu (Plate XXVII, Fig. 2). 
The long tubular drums vary in length from 50 to 103 cm. At a 
funeral, four of these tubular drums, which are usually held between 
the legs or placed upright, are played in compound rhythm. A 
performer always warms the skin of the drum at a fire, and sometimes 
the pitch is altered by sticking a lump of wax on the membrane 
of a long drum, or on the sides of a wooden drum. 

Dr. Herzog reports as follows, after transcribing several cylinders 
of phonographic records of rhythms played on the long drum, and 
after examining motion pictures which were synchronized with the 
drumming (Plates XXV, XXVI). 

"These motion pictures indicate the position of the performer's 
hands, and suggest that the sharply accented tones are produced 
by impacts from the phalanges. The higher notes so produced have 
been marked by notes above the line. A mark placed between notes 
indicates a very short rest. 

"No. 1 (dictaphone record 3) represents the drumming of a young 
player, who is apparently still an apprentice, since his rhythm is 
very simple. The three forms of his playing given below were used 
interchangeably, and he shifted from one to the other without 
stopping. In the second form, the order of the sharp and of the 
plain beat is reversed. Otherwise, the sharp beat occurs, in the 
playing of all drummers, on the off beat. The rhythm of No. 2 
(dictaphone record 15) is a little more varied because the player 
was changed. The drummer of No. 3 (dictaphone record 30) was 
the best performer in the neighborhood, according to Mr. Hambly; 
and his playing is the most interesting. The drum records consist 
of a small number of rhythms which are freely interchanged; the 
two predominating rhythms are given below. The moving pictures 
were made from this player's performance. 

"The notations found here do not convey to the reader the 
bewildering complexity of African rhythm, for this appears only 
when a performance includes the use of several drums and musical 
instruments in conjunction with dancing." 

From Ngalangi a large friction drum 120 cm long and 47 cm in 
diameter was obtained. This instrument, which was the property 
of the village, was played only on public occasions. Apparently 
the drum had been hollowed from a log of wood, one end of which 
was left open while the other was covered with hide. To the inner 
side of this hide a long cane was attached. On the side of the drum 



224 The Ovimbundu 



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and in the middle was an oval aperture. The performer laid the 
drum on the ground and took his seat astride it. He dipped his 
right hand in a gourd of water, then rubbed his wet palm up and 
down the cane rod, which he could reach through the oval aperture. 
The sound of the rubbing on the rod was communicated to the 
membrane. 

A short friction drum made at Elende measures 21 by 42 cm. 
One end of the drum is covered with hide kept taut by pegs of 
wood while the other end is open for the insertion of the player's 
hand. A cane rod is attached to the inside of the membrane. The 
assistant of a medicine-man holds this instrument under his arm 
and plays during divination. The medicine-man sits on a stool 
shaking his divination basket (Plate XXIII, Fig. 2). 

Rattles are of three kinds, and of these the more common are a 
small, long-necked gourd containing hard seeds, and a compound 



Education 225 

rattle made by fixing seed pods on a stick. Rattles of the latter 
type are sometimes tied to the ankles during dancing and they 
usually form a part of the medicine-man's outfit (Plate XXII, 
Fig. 4). From Cangamba a basket rattle of dumb-bell form was 
obtained; the basket-work receptacles at each end of the connecting 
rod contain hard seeds (Plate XXII, Fig. 1). 

At Bailundu three Ovimbundu flute players met a party of 
visitors whom they accompanied around the native village under 
the leadership of a chief. The men played the flutes continuously 
except when the chief was speaking. The wooden flutes varied in 
length from 20 to 50 cm. The instruments were end-played, and 
the smallest of them had seven stop-holes. The visitors were con- 
ducted from the village by this small orchestra which is a permanent 
guard of honor for the chief (Plate XL, Fig. 1). 

At Cangamba the Vachokue have an instrument consisting of 
eight slats of wood which vary in length and thickness. These 
sounding boards are attached to two parallel cords which are kept 
tight by two assistants. The performer taps the wooden slats with 
two sticks terminating in balls of wax. This is the well-known 
marimba, but the gourds which are usually fastened under the 
slats of wood were absent in this instance. 

The instrument ocisanji is played well by only a few men. It 
consists of a wooden board, often well carved, on which there are 
from eight to nineteen thin keys of metal. These can be pushed 
backward and forward in their bridge so as to alter the vibrating 
length and pitch of the note. The pitch may also be varied by 
placing small balls of wax on the under side of the keys. When 
the instrument is held between the palms the player's thumbs are 
in position for stroking the keys. Sometimes ocisanji is played 
inside a wide gourd (Plate XXII, Fig. 5). 

The musical bow is called ombumbumba. The bridge, which is 
a small stone, or a piece of wood placed at one end of the bow, keeps 
the string taut. The gourd is tightly fastened to the bowstring with 
a loop of string. One end of the bow is sometimes placed in the 
player's mouth. The left hand holds the bow and presses the gourd 
to the body, then releases it a little from time to time in order to 
assist tone and resonance. The player holds in his right hand a 
reed which is tapped lightly on the bowstring, while the thumb 
and forefinger of the left hand are used occasionally in pressing on 
the string to alter its vibrating length (Plate XXII, Fig. 6). 



226 The Ovimbundu 

Another musical bow named ekolowa is of simple construction, 
consisting of a strip of cane from 54 to 70 cm long and 2 cm wide. 
At each end of the cane is a projection. A string, when tightly 
stretched between these projections, pulls the cane into the form 
of a bow. The performer, placing one end of the bow in his mouth, 
plucks the string with his thumb and forefinger (Plate XXII, Fig. 7). 

Two rubbing instruments are used by the Ovimbundu. Ogolanda 
is a large gourd with a slit in the top along which there is a board 
cut into sixteen notches. The rubbing of a short stick along these 
notches produces a sound which is greatly amplified by the gourd 
resonator. The second instrument of this type is in the form of a 
wooden bow having its thickest part notched for rubbing with a 
stick (Plate XXII, Figs. 3, 8). 

Only specialists are skilled in composing songs, and both men 
and women are composers. The younger people sometimes go to 
the old people to learn songs which were popular a generation ago. 
There are no professional itinerant story-tellers. 

There is a chant for funerals which has been quoted in the 
appropriate section, but no special wedding songs are used. The 
Ovimbundu have satirical songs humorously describing individual 
foibles and peculiarities, and as usual in Negro communities a 
satirical song is feared by thieves, adulterers, or other offenders. 

In former days when men were on the warpath they sang, 
Okaimbo ketu katito eteke tu lisanumbula tu tandako. ("Our village 
is little today, we attack, we extend.") Another war song is Ocisonde 
ci likoka ove o kasi vonjila tumdamo. ("Red ant that creeps along, 
you who are in the way, get out.") 

When men on the march came to a camping ground occupied 
by another caravan, they sang as a challenge, Cinene nye? Cinene 
onjamba kakuli okachama kavela ukuavo. ("What is the largest? 
There is no animal largest. The largest is the elephant.") 

During hauling and carrying, men sing, Yende, yende chale, 
ocimboto lomala vaco. ("Let it go, let it go, the crab, the frog, with 
its children.") 

Lifting loads is always accompanied by noises which suggest 
that someone is injured. Part of the men make deep grunts to which 
their companions answer with prolonged groans. 

Initiation 

Evidence bearing on initiatory rites in Angola shows that the 
ceremonies are arranged as a process of incorporation into the 



Education 227 

tribes, for everywhere these rites aim at securing ideas of unity, coop- 
eration, conformity to tribal law, and admission to adult tribal life. 

The methods used to achieve these aims are seclusion, circum- 
cision, physical suffering, direct tuition, dancing, hunting, a change 
of name, and finally a ceremonial return to the tribe with adult status 
and the right to marry. 

The following notes give details of ceremonies witnessed at 
three centers; namely, Katoko, Ngalangi, and Cangamba. For 
comparison of these rites with others performed in eastern Angola 
reference should be made to the books of A. Schachtzabel, and to 
the papers of H. Baumann (III), and F. and W. Jaspert, whose 
observations were made independently of each other and of my 
own investigation. 

The dances of the novices at Klatoko, where there is a mixed 
population of Ovimbundu, Vangangella, and Vachokue tribes, are 
part of the final ceremonies following circumcision and seclusion. 
The social group formed by this collective circumcision, seclusion, 
and dancing, is called ovinganji, which is the name of the initiatory 
rites themselves. A boy who has been initiated is not allowed to 
become friendly with one who has not suffered the ceremony, and 
all boys who were circumcised at the same time preserve a sense 
of unity by dancing in a company and moving about together for 
twelve weeks after their return to the village from which they came. 

Circumcision, which is prohibited by the Portuguese govern- 
ment, is still practised secretly in some regions. When circumcision 
is carried out by primitive methods serious infection may result 
from the lack of clean instruments, for the knife is, of course, 
unsterilized. 

After the operation the patients are subjected to harsh treatment 
during the period of cure that follows. The circumcised are secluded 
in a wooded area. Food provided by the parents is placed on the 
bank of a river near which the initiation camp is built, and after 
the parents have gone away the boys bring their rations from the 
river to the camp. Before eating, the boys are obliged to give profuse 
thanks to the men who are acting as tutors. In some regions there 
is no food ration for the boys, and the rule is that each boy must 
subsist on what he is able to catch and collect with his hands. 

Each boy has a male guardian who takes care of him after the 
operation. Those who have been operated upon are not permitted 
to wear clothes, nor are they allowed to warm themselves until 
quite healed. Any infraction of the rules results in a severe whipping. 



228 The Ovimbundu 

During the period of isolation costumes for the dance are made. 
These consist of clothing of tightly fitting, coarse netting, masks, 
and girdles which are for the use of only those boys who have been 
circumcised. The feasts and dances celebrating the conclusion of 
initiatory rites are of great importance. Women are not supposed 
to know that the operation of circumcision is taking place, and 
they are taught that ovinganji are supernatural beings who have 
sprung up from the earth; therefore every effort is made to conceal 
masks and costumes from the sight of women and the uninitiated. 
No female is allowed to go near the enclosure where novices are 
confined. 

A few days after observing the costumes and dances of the 
newly initiated boys at Katoko I was in the Ngalangi region at 
the village of Ngongo, about a hundred miles to the north of Katoko. 
At Ngalangi two boys of the Ovimbundu were questioned with 
regard to their experiences in the initiation camp. 

It is certain that initiation ceremonies are held at irregular 
intervals and not more frequently than once in four years. The 
name given to the ceremonies for boys in the Ngalangi area is 
ocinganji (oci, "big"; nganji, "judge," or a masked person). When 
there is a number of boys who have not been circumcised, these 
approach the oldest men to ask for a circumcision ceremony. The 
old men visit the sekulu ("headman") of the village to request that 
arrangements shall be made. An ocimbanda ("medicine-man"), 
assisted by other men, prepares a camp in a wooded area. Usually 
the father of each boy has to arrange that a tutor shall accompany 
his son to the camp, but sometimes as many as three boys have the 
same guardian. The guardian receives a small fee, possibly nothing 
more valuable than a chicken. 

The camp is made on the side of a stream remote from the 
village. Each boy takes a chicken to the camp for the purpose of 
making a special meal, which is given at the name-changing ceremony 
which follows initiation. The chicken is eaten soon after the boy 
has been circumcised. The boy changes his own name for a new 
one which is announced in the village from which he came. While 
circumcision is in progress the enclosure is surrounded by male 
drummers and men who shout, so that any noise made by the boys 
during circumcision will not be heard. 

The period spent in camp is uncertain, probably from three 
to six months. The rule is that camp is not disbanded until every 
boy is healed; which means that the confinement may be greatly 



Education 229 

prolonged if even one boy fails to recover. One of the two youths 
interrogated said that in his camp there were seventy-eight boys, 
three of whom died. My other informant said that in his camp 
there were sixty-eight boys, only one of whom died. The informants 
agreed that the deaths were due to an epidemic of influenza and 
not to privations or septic conditions arising from the operation. 

During the period of seclusion the boys are taught songs and 
dances used at the ceremony that celebrates the conclusion of their 
initiation. By privation the boys are taught the value of food and 
fire. Novices are beaten if they show any disrespect for their 
guardians, and trifling offences are severely punished. Every boy 
has to take from the fire a burning stick, which he holds in his hand 
while running between two lines of men who beat him, and if he 
drops the stick he has to start his run once more. The boys swear 
allegiance to one another. A novice thinks that he will die if he 
gives information to a woman or to a man who has not been initiated. 

From his mother, each boy receives food in a gourd which he 
deposits on the bank of a river near the novices' camp. If a boy 
dies, a hole is bored in the gourd so that when the mother receives 
this she will not send more food. Each guardian has a stick which 
is sent to the mother of his pupil when the ceremony of initiation 
and seclusion is ended. If the boy has died, bark is cut from both 
ends of the stick before this symbol of death is sent to his parents. 

When the boys come out from their camp at the conclusion of 
the rites one man and one woman stand on the bank of the river, 
and the boys pass under the legs of both the man and the woman. 
When the boys arrive at the village the whole population comes 
out to welcome them. There is a feast and beer-drinking bout on 
the day of return. 

During seclusion no water is allowed for washing, and the inform- 
ants laughed as they spoke of the order "wash hands," whereupon 
the boys merely rubbed their hands together. When the order, 
"wash dishes," was given the boys rubbed their platters with their 
hands. On the day of leaving camp the novices bathe in the river. 
Ablution consists of three dips, after each of which the boy stands 
on the bank until he is dry. 

For two months the boys wear strips of bark cloth. During this 
period all the novices must move together, but there is no objection 
to their leaving the village provided they do so all in one company. 
While wearing bark cloth the boys have each day to attend a cere- 



230 The Ovimbundu 

mony at which the older initiates dance while the novices clap 
their hands. 

I witnessed the dance of initiated boys at Ngongo, where the 
costumes resembled those I had seen at Katoko. At night a youth 
brought for me a set of initiation costumes (Plate LXXVIII, Fig. 1), 
which resembled those worn during the dance; this he did with great 
secrecy. 

While at Ngalangi, the initiation of girls was investigated. After sev- 
eral days of negotiation with a village headman three female guardians 
of the girls came from the bush. The illustrations (Plate LXXVII, 
Figs. 1, 2) show the attitudes of these women and their decoration. 
There were three male drummers in the orchestra and several women, 
who sang and clapped their hands. On emerging from the bush the 
females moved toward the orchestra with their backs toward the 
players. As there were about two hundred yards to cover, this 
slow backward movement occupied a long time, since the three 
women did not take more than a few inches at each step. The dance 
itself was a slow, shuffling, swaying movement, made while the 
bodies of the performers remained inclined forward and their heads 
were bent so that it was almost impossible to see their faces. The 
women wore no clothing except loin cloths. Each female was 
plastered from head to foot with alternate bands of red and white 
clay smeared thickly. These three females are the women who act 
as instructors for the girls during isolation in the bush where they 
receive sexual and domestic instruction. 

The seclusion of girls covers a period of one month. During 
this time the novices suffer no harsh treatment though an operation 
is performed, possibly excision of the clitoris, but I am not certain 
on this point. It was also stated that a corncob is introduced into 
the vagina. The tribe practising this ceremony for girls was the 
Vanyemba, living close to the Ovimbundu at Ngongo near Ngalangi 
in central Angola. 

In order to corroborate further the two accounts of initiation 
ceremonies for boys I journeyed to Cangamba in Moxico, eastern 
Angola. The position of the two first centers visited (Katoko and 
Ngongo) is on the border line where Ovimbundu and Vachokue 
mingle, and although there is a mixture of these and other tribes 
at Cangamba, the culture, language, and physique of the Vachokue 
predominate. A description of the circumcision ceremonies witnessed 
at Cangamba is given below for comparison with the accounts 
resulting from visits to Katoko and Ngongo. 



Education 231 

The compound in which the initiates had been confined for 
three months was a circular enclosure made of light branches and 
leafy boughs, at the narrow embrasure of which stood a guardian 
of the boys, who permitted entrance. In the middle of the large 
enclosure were seven small cages, each of which was just large enough 
to allow one boy to lie on his back, and I was informed that the boys 
lie thus for two weeks after circumcision (Plate LXXX, Fig. 2). 

The ages of the boys appeared to be from ten to seventeen years 
(Plate LXXX, Fig. 1), an observation which agrees well with that 
made at Katoko and Ngongo. The disparity of age among the 
novices at each center where initiation was observed bears out the 
statement that initiation ceremonies are held at irregular intervals, 
but not more frequently than once in four years. 

During confinement in the large enclosure the novices had made 
masks and costumes (Plate LXXIX, Fig. 1), and when they were 
pulling on the coarse netting suits, which fit tightly, I observed 
that circumcision had been performed thoroughly, evidently some 
weeks ago, for the wounds were healed. Masks were obtained, and 
these the instructors of the boys were careful to wrap in bark cloth, 
at the same time requesting me not to show the objects to women. 

A few days later these boys returned to their village to dance 
while wearing the costumes which had been made in the enclosure. 
At Cangamba the final ceremony lasted twelve hours amid great 
excitement, including ceaseless drumming and dancing. One boy, 
who wore a skirt on his fiber costume, lifted this to display an 
artificial penis of great size (Plate LXXIX, Fig. 2). This organ 
he grasped in his hand while chasing the women and girls, who 
ran away screaming and laughing. 

At this ceremony there appeared stilt-walkers (Plate LXXXI, 
Fig. 1) and a medicine-man, a member of the Luchazi tribe (Plate 
LXXXI, Fig. 2). 

Circumcision among the Bdjok (Vachokue) has been witnessed 
by C. P. Holdredge and described by Kimball Young (Amer. Anthr., 
XXIX, pp. 661-669). This ceremony took place in the far north- 
east of Angola. The man described as the magish of whom women 
are afraid, but who is known to the initiates, corresponds to the 
Uluchazi medicine-man seen in the final ceremony at Cangamba. 
Of this grotesquely dressed person the men and boys took no notice, 
neither did he pay attention to them. On the contrary he chased 
women, who ran away screaming. Kimball Young's description 
of the enclosure where boys are confined, and his account of the 



232 The Ovimbundu 

short fiber skirts worn within this enclosure by the novices, are in 
agreement with the observations made at Cangamba. There is 
also a close resemblance between the independent accounts of 
H. Baumann and F. and W. Jaspert for the Vachokue, also P. A. 
Delille and E. de Jonghe for the southwest Congo. 

The question of initiation rites, past and present, among people 
of pure Umbundu culture is important. The matter is more fully 
dealt with later in discussing cultural contacts and cultural losses, 
but there are a few points which should not be omitted here. 

At Caconda, an Umbundu center of western Angola, Pere R. P. 
Laagel stated that only two years ago he had visited an initiation 
camp of Ovimbundu boys in the hope of persuading them to return 
to his mission school at Caconda. My informant stated that the 
boys were circumcised, beaten, and confined to an enclosure for 
several weeks. Those who cried out when flogged received a double 
portion of blows. Poisoning is the fate of a boy who reveals the 
secrets of the initiation camp to women or uninitiated boys. This 
is the most direct testimony I have received concerning initiation 
rites among unmixed Ovimbundu. 

From Bailundu and Elende I have obtained slight evidence of 
initiation rites. At the former place, which, like Elende, is a center 
of the Ovimbundu tribe, fiber costumes were obtained. The mask 
from Elende is unlike those used at Cangamba, Katoko, and Ngongo. 
The fiber suits are, however, no different from costumes used at 
these places. Initiation ceremonies are not held at Elende today, 
and beyond Dr. Ennis's statement that circumcision rites have been 
revived in the past fifteen years of his long residence in the neighbor- 
hood of Elende, I have no evidence of ritual. 

The data relating to initiation of boys in Angola suggest loss 
of the initiatory rites from Umbundu culture, until only a few old 
masks and costumes, along with attenuated ritual, remain sporadi- 
cally. On the contrary, in eastern Angola and particularly among 
the Vachokue, who are farther than the Ovimbundu from coastal 
influence, initiation ceremonies flourish. At present there is occurring 
a penetration of initiation rites from the Vachokue area into east- 
central Angola, which is a region of cultural admixture. 

The foregoing pages have described certain institutions and social 
forces which collectively bring individuals into conformity with tribal 
standards of conduct. The influences at work in this direction may 
be direct or indirect. 



Education 233 

Among direct educational forces are the home training given 
by parents and the mutual responsibility of children and their 
mother's brother, whose reciprocal obligations have been explained. 
Family life is undeniably an important institution whose power is 
by no means suppressed by the strength of the village community 
and tribal organization. 

Initiation, which may or may not coincide with puberty, is 
perhaps the most potent direct influence in formation of character 
and the inculcation of principles tending to tribal solidarity. 
Formerly warfare and hunting were more important than they are 
today, consequently initiation rites imposing hardship and emphasiz- 
ing the importance of concerted action, had a greater social value 
than they have at present. 

Formal instruction in industries such as iron-working, or pro- 
fessional hunting, indicates one aspect of occupational training. 
In these instances there are apprenticeship and an initiatory rite. 
All children are, however, subject to an indirect industrial education 
through the agency of play, while a few, according to desire and 
aptitude, become experts in some particular occupation. 

At all times the force of suggestion is at work in the home, in 
the men's council house, and through everyday observation of the 
conduct of elders. Probably folklore stories also have an indirect 
educational value, because some of the fables show the desirability 
of courage, honesty, and foresight, at the same time deprecating 
cowardice, stupidity, and low cunning. 

In chapter IX religious beliefs are discussed, and, in connection 
with these, standards of conduct are outlined. Although the Ovim- 
bundu have a belief in a supreme being and creator (Suku), and 
although they believe in survival after death, there is no evidence 
to show that conduct and education are influenced by theological 
beliefs. Suku, who is vaguely conceived, is far away and unin- 
terested. He issues no commands. Neither is there a belief in 
punishments and rewards after death. The standards of conduct 
are based on utilitarian principles which secure harmony and unity. 

The efficiency of the direct and indirect educational forces of 
the Ovimbundu is attested by the history of the tribe. The indige- 
nous system of education, supported by favorable environment, 
consolidated these people so that they became the dominating power 
in Angola. Moreover, their cohesion has been such that three 
centuries of European contacts have failed to eliminate all the 
basic elements of their tribal life. 



VIII. LANGUAGE 
Affinities of Umbundu 

The Umbundu language is widely understood in Angola owing 
to the journeys of the Ovimbundu as raiders and traders in large 
caravans. Umbundu is as important for communication in Angola 
as Hausa is for Nigeria, or Swahili for the east coast of Africa. 

Notwithstanding this use of Umbundu as a lingua franca it is 
necessary to note that tribes surrounding the Ovimbundu have 
their own distinctive Bantu languages; moreover, the Umbundu 
language itself has several dialects. 

For example, the Vasele tribe living in rugged country in the 
hinterland of Novo Redondo have a dialect of Umbundu (Usele) so 
distinctive that a competent Ocimbundu interpreter has difficulty 
in making himself understood, or interpreting what is said. Isola- 
tion of the Vasele from the Ovimbundu has led to the formation of 
a cultural pocket in which linguistic developments have shared in 
a specialization of culture. The differences between the Umbundu 
of Elende and that of the Ambundu tribes may be noted by comparing 
this brief outline of Umbundu, recorded at Elende, with the records 
of Amandus Johnson, whose research relates to the language spoken 
in the hinterland of Loanda. The present chapter will deal only 
with notes on vocabulary, phonetics, an outline of grammar, sign 
language, folklore and proverbs, all of which are briefly treated. 
In the field phonographic records of the Umbundu language were 
taken, and for the analysis of tonal values and other aspects of 
phonetics I am indebted to Dr. M. H. Watkins, a student of Professor 
E. Sapir, formerly of the University of Chicago, now at Yale. 

The section on Umbundu grammar conclusively shows Umbundu 
to be a representative language of the Bantu family of languages. 
Umbundu possesses all the fundamental characteristics of Bantu 
speech. The truth of this may be seen by comparing this outline 
of Umbundu with the analysis of Bantu languages given by A. 
Werner (Language Families of Africa, London, 1925). Moreover, 
Carl Meinhof (Grundzuge einer vergleichenden Grammatik der 
Bantu Sprachen, Berlin, 1906, pp. 112-115, and translation by 
A. Werner and N. J. von Warmelo, London, 1932) indicates the 
degree of relationship of Umbundu to other Bantu tongues by giv- 
ing comparisons of the stems of personal and possessive pronouns, 
along with other comparative data. 

234 



Language 235 

H. H. Johnston (A Comparative Study of the Bantu and Semi- 
Bantu Languages, Oxford, 1919, vol. I, p. 350) places Umbundu in 
his Group X ; that is, the southwestern group of Bantu languages. 
Johnston's map indicates that throughout Angola there is a gradual 
transition from the southwestern Bantu group to that of the south- 
west Congo, which is exactly what might be expected from a con- 
sideration of the geographical position of Angola. Johnston's 
grouping is based on root forms and vocabulary. 

This difficulty of making a comparison of the affinities of 
Umbundu does not preclude the possibility of recording some 
preliminary observations, especially with regard to vocabulary. 

F. and W. Jaspert have prepared a comparative vocabulary of 
250 words in the languages of the Ovimbundu, the Luena, the 
Basongo, the Luchazi, the Luimbi, and the Vachokue tribes. 
Inspection of the columns indicates a close connection of Songo, 
Luchazi, and Luimbi; in fact, the vocabularies of the two latter 
are almost identical. The vocabularies of the Vachokue and the 
Luena have much in common with those mentioned, but the 
Umbundu vocabulary has only a minor agreement with the vocab- 
ularies of these eastern and northeastern tribes. There are, how- 
ever, some words which are identical in all these languages mentioned 
by F. and W. Jaspert. Examples of identity, or very close similarity, 
are found in the words for "bow," "elephant," "to eat," "firestick," 
"finger," and a few other forms, but the principal deduction 
from inspection of the columns is the distinctiveness of the Umbundu 
vocabulary. 

On the contrary, examination of the vocabularies of the Ovim- 
bundu and the Vakuanyama, of the south of Angola, appears to 
justify Johnston's inclusion of Umbundu with southwestern Bantu 
in so far as similarity of vocabulary is a criterion. The correspond- 
ence is further borne out by P. H. Brincker's "Lehrbuch des Oshi- 
kuanyama." In the light of these comparisons the relationship of 
Umbundu vocabularies is readily seen, for instead of searching for 
similarities the numerous identities are at once evident. At a glance 
one sees that the Umbundu and Kuanyama words for "arm," 
"arrow," "ax," "banana," "beard," "bird," "blood," "bone," 
"breast," "charcoal," "guinea fowl," "hand," and "hoe," are 
either identical or closely related. I noted the easy communication 
of my Ocimbundu interpreter with the Vakuanyama of Mongua. 

Some of the following chapters show that the Ovimbundu have 
an undeniable southwest Congo culture; they have, however, taken 



236 The Ovimbundu 

cattle and a few other traits from the Vakuanyama of southern 
Angola, and there seems to be no doubt that the vocabularies of 
the Ovimbundu and the Vakuanyama have been influenced by 
these southern contacts. Yet structure will prove the final arbiter 
in deciding linguistic relationships, for the Ovimbundu as exten- 
sive travelers have widely distributed their vocabulary. 

Caution is necessary in making comparisons of Umbundu with 
surrounding languages; for, although Kuanyama has received careful 
attention, and the researches of Meinhof have given a reliable 
background for Ovambo and Herero speech, the language of the 
Vachokue of eastern Angola and the speech of the Mussurongo of 
northern Angola, call for a comprehensive work. Moreover, there 
yet remains the task of providing a standard Umbundu dictionary 
and grammar, and pending the collation of this linguistic material 
there are no means of determining the exact syntactical, phonetic, 
and other relationships of Umbundu. 

Vocabulary 

Apart from a broad question of the linguistic evidence of culture 
contacts, there are points of interest connected with the recording of 
vocabularies in a restricted area. Under the heading "Nature Lore" 
attention was called to an extensive Umbundu vocabulary connected 
with those activities which underlie the economic structure. The 
vocabulary showed that the Ovimbundu are keen observers whose 
activities have resulted in the formation of a large vocabulary 
arising from trades and occupations. In nature study many fine 
distinctions are made; thus, there are words to distinguish not only 
trees and plants of economic importance, but varieties of snakes 
and lizards which are of no great economic interest. 

In order to test further mental activity and the acquisition of 
vocabulary, an Ocimbundu girl of about twelve years of age was 
asked to name some of the objects in my collection. Without 
hesitation she made the following list. The object was indicated, 
then the child gave the name. This information was checked by 
an adult interpreter who found that the child was correct in every 
instance, although the objects do not specially appeal to the in- 
terests of a young girl. 

The objects named by this girl are as follows: 

Ocimanda. Wooden dish. Ukinda. Switch made from the tail of 
Omutopa. Tobacco-pipe made from a an ox. 

horn. Opatalonya. Leather pouch for belt. 

Etenga. Pipe for smoking hemp. Upi. Pounding stick. 

Ocinunga. Brass bracelet. Ombenje. Gourd with a long neck. 



Language 237 

Onganja. Large round gourd. Embungumbungu. Bull-roarer. 

Onguwa. Net in which gourd is carried. Olosangu (singular, olusangu). Rattles 

Ohonji. Bow. for tying on the legs when dancing. 

Usongo. Arrow. Olumbendo. Wooden flute. 

Olundovi (plural olondori) Bark rope, g^ m oeifiumia0t Wooden hair . 

Ombulunwumba. Musical bow. comb. 

Onoma. Drum. Osinja. Long needle used in making 

OhuHya. Throwing stick. mats 

Ohanyanga Drill for boring wood 0nemk Wooden j and doye 

Ongombo. Basket used in divination. _ , -, - . 

Esanga. Water jar. 0sala - , Head-dress worn by kings, 

r\ > T t 1 -i warriors, medicine-men and hunters. 

Ocipupu. Jar for palm oil Small bmsh used b med icine-man. 

Ocimbangu. Skin-covered box carried _ .„ „ _ , 

to war by a king. Ocinumariuma. Wooden image of hu- 

Omusaka (diminutive, okamisaka). man "S 111 " 6 - 

Flour-sifter. Olupunda. Rat trap of cane. 

Opesi. Tobacco-pipe. Ombntesa. Snuff box. 

The names for colors are restricted to a few words; but in all 
other respects the Umbundu vocabulary is extensive. 

My interpreter said, "When I was learning colors, the women 
at the school told me many names, but I could see no difference at 
all." Ngonga contended that there was no difference between the 
color of a dark blue book and the black box on which it was resting. 

The following colors have names. Black is tekava. White is 
yela. Yellow is ondunga. Red is kusuka. Greens and blues are 
not well distinguished linguistically, but green is anirtamboto. The 
word tekavisa is used to indicate that a color is not distinctly green 
or blue. The word yelisa is used to describe gray, and all dark 
reds. Wumbula is the term which describes a greenish-blue shade. 

A further study of vocabulary was made by asking Ngonga 
to speak into the dictaphone. In doing so he gave lists of words 
including nouns in their singular and plural forms, together with 
many examples of other parts of speech and illustrations of syntax. 
These records have been transcribed by Dr. M. H. Watkins. (This 
section was prepared with use of phonetic symbols that were easily 
available. For the most recent system, see "Practical Phonetics for 
Students of African Languages," by D. Westermann and I. C. 
Ward, London, 1933.) 

Phonetics 
vowels 

The vowels are a, e, i, o, u, and perhaps a. They seem to be some- 
what lower than the cardinal vowels. There was only one word in 
which the vowel a was heard, dpdtdl&nd (leather pouch for a belt). 
This word, however, appears in the field notes as opatalona (opata- 



238 



The Ovimbundu 



lonya) and the obscure vowel heard might have been a result of 
imperfection in the record. These vowels are fairly close to the 
European vowels, their nearest equivalents in the European languages 
being approximately as represented below: 

a, as in German Masse. 

e, as in French He". 

i, as in English machine. 

o, as French eau. 

u, as in German Buck. 

2, as e in German Klasse, and a in about. 

The nasal vowel q appears in a fairly large number of words, 
and the nasal g is occasionally heard. Before another vowel, u takes 
the sound of w: bhohyb (olu-eyo), "broom"; dtumqlq' twayge* (tu-ayge), 
"my little children." 

The rising diphthongs (a, je, ju, and jo and the falling diphthong 
a\ appear in the material, but every combination of two vowels 
does not make a diphthong. In several instances, when a word 
terminating in a vowel was followed by another word, the initial 
letter of which was also a vowel, the final vowel was elided. Final 
vowels on the low tone tend to vanish; that is, they are only slightly 
voiced, as in dsaygokaluygi (dsaygd dkaluygi), "he found (a) little 
hole"; n dav6len6ne~ ( n dave"ld enenb), "I am big sick." (I am very sick.) 

CONSONANTS 

The table of consonants is as follows: 



StoDs 1 Voiced 
I Voiceless 

Spirantsj™<*f 

I Voiceless 
Aflfricatives I Voiced 

I Voiceless 
Nasals 
Lateral 
Semivowels 



Bilabial 


Dentilabial 


Alveolar 


Prepalatal 


Palatal 


Glottal 


b 




d, »d 




9 




V 


V 


t 




k 






f 


s 
dj, n dj 
tc 






h 


m 




n 
I 


n 


V 




w and y 













The symbols n d and n dj indicate "nasal attack" consonants, i.e., 
the fully pronounced consonants d, dj, and g are preceded by their 
homo-organic nasals not completely formed. It is as if one prepared 
to make the sound of n but before its completion changed to d or dj; 
likewise the change is made from y to g. Letter c is ch as in church. 



Language 239 

tone and stress 

Apparently there are three tones in this language, but one 
cannot be quite sure, since under the somewhat unusual condition 
of attempting to record his voice on the dictaphone the informant 
might have distorted the pitch of certain syllables. That three 
tones can be distinguished when listening to the records, and that 
these tones tend to follow a definite pattern, for example, in the 
singular and plural forms of the same word, can be asserted with 
satisfaction; but there is less assurance in trying to understand all 
the nuances of these tones and in assigning them, without reservation, 
a definite place in the phonetics of the language. Nothing short of 
field work aided by delicate instruments can afford any satisfactory 
conclusions on this point. 

The data did not present any clear instance in which tone had 
semantic value. That is, there were no examples of two or more 
words, which, otherwise identical, differed only in tone and meaning. 

The field notes state that the difference between cardinal and 
ordinal numbers is one of tone only, and this was partially verified 
from the phonographic records, but the words were not clear enough 
for transcription. 

The following words have tones of semantic value, but the 
phonographic record was not clear. Kalunga, according to tone, 
can mean "god," "sea," "death," or "greeting." Ombambi can mean 
a "fever" (low tone) or a "bush buck" (high tone). Onjila means 
"bird" or "path." Ombundi means "gateway" or the root which is 
commonly used in brewing beer. Ongongo means "earth" (middle 
tone), or "hardship" (high tone). 

In this chapter tones are indicated by placing a grave accent (d) 
to indicate a low tone, and an acute accent (d) to show the occurrence 
of a high tone. The middle tone is left unmarked. 

The tones are not fixed, and they will be shown to shift in context. 
For example, a high tone on the penultimate syllable tends to be 
carried along to the last syllable also. This shifting of tone is 
especially noticeable when a noun is brought into concord with its 
qualifying adjective or relative, or when a noun is the subject of 
a verb. The following are instances in which tones do not maintain 
their original positions as found in isolated words: uti, "tree," 
utt unkind, "large tree"; blwkyb, "broom," 6lw6y6 luwa, "good broom"; 
dmunu, "person," omunu utito, "small person." 

This kind of tonal behavior was clearly indicated in five records 
of single words, and expressions of two words. But in the transcrip- 



240 The Ovimbundu 

tions of folklore texts tonal behavior will be seen to be less consistent. 
Discrepancies in the incidence of tones may be due to different speeds 
at which words are spoken. The placing of tones is perhaps most 
reliable when transcriptions are made from free, continuous speech, 
as in the case of fluent reading, or talking in continuous sentences. 
Many words received a definite stress on the last syllable, and 
in others the penultimate syllable received a light stress. The 
majority, however, received slight, if any, stress, hence no definite 
conclusions could be reached on this subject. In several instances 
it is obvious that the informant was striving to be clear and distinct 
in pronouncing each syllable; therefore he possibly sacrificed certain 
characteristics of his intonation. 

THE SYLLABLE 

Every syllable ends in a vowel, consequently a vowel terminates 
each word, and consonants are pronounced with the following vowel, 
or with a consonant plus the vowel. The vowel of the penultimate 
syllable is long when the word stands alone, and in larger sound- 
groups the vowel is long in the penultimate syllable of the last 
word, while in the preceding word, or words, the corresponding vowel 
seems to be only half the length. Vowel length is not indicated in 
these transcriptions. 

Grammar 
the class system 

The data available were sufficient to establish the following 
classes of nouns, on the basis of their prefixes in the singular and 
plural; the formation of the adjectival or relative concords was 
likewise noted. There is no assurance that this list is exhaustive. 



Class 


Prefix 






Relative 




Singular 


Plural 


Singular 


Plural 


1. 


omu-, omo- 


oma- 


U- 




va- 


la. 
2. 


u- 

u-, oku- 


a-, ova- 
ovo- 


U- 

u- (ku-) 


va- 
a- 


3. 
4. 
5. 
6. 


u- 
o- 
olu- 
otci- 


ovi-, i- 
olo- 
olo-, a- 
ovi-, i- 


u- 

t 

tci- 




vi- 
vi- 
vi-, a- 
vi- 


7. 

7a. 

8. 


e- 

-, i- 
oka- 


a-, ova- 

ova- 

otu- 


li- 
li- 
ka- 




a- 
a- 
tu- 



According to the principle of concord, the noun prefix is the 
governing element which determines the concordial agreement of 
parts of speech when these are brought into relationship with the 
noun. The prefixes also indicate number and, together with the 



Language 241 

concordial agreement as stated above, divide the nouns into several 
classes or class genders. We need not enter upon a general discussion 
of concord, which in the Bantu languages is a method of expressing 
grammatical relations that are of fundamental importance. Concord 
need not always appear in the form of perfect alliteration, although 
it frequently does so, for the essential fact is that all nouns of the 
same class are recognizable as such, and other elements of speech 
when brought into syntactic agreement with these nouns must 
carry similar distinctions. 

Students of Bantu have suggested that the various noun classes 
probably represent a proto-Bantu classification which formerly 
betokened a grouping based on common characteristics (A. Werner, 
Some Bantu Linguistic Problems, Jour. Afr. Soc, XXVIII, 1928-29, 
pp. 155-165). The nouns listed here under Class 1 may accordingly 
be recognized as belonging to the so-called personal class, and the 
prefixes of Class 8 indicate a diminutive class. 

CLASS 1 

Singular Prefix: omu-, omo- Relative: u- 

Plural Prefix: oma- Relative: va- 

omunu, person omQlq, child 

dmanu, people dmfylq, children 

Illustrations of concordial agreement with these nouns: 
omunu utito, small person drnQlq" utito, small child 

dm&nu vdtito, small people dmfylq' vdtito, small children 

CLASS 1A 

Singular Prefix: u- Relative: u- 

Plural Prefix: a-, ova- Relative: va- 

ulume, man ufeko, girl 

alume, men afeko, girls 

ovalume, men dvdfeko, girls 

ukqi, woman umalehe, lad 

akqi, women amalehe, lads 
ovdkqi, women 

The following forms show the concordial agreement for Class 1A: 
ulume utito, small man akqi vdtito, small women 

alume vdtito, small men ovdkqi vdtito, small women 

ovalume vdtito, small men afeko vene (va-ene), your (pi.) girls 

ukqi utito, small woman amalehe vavd, their lads 



242 



The Ovimbundu 



Singular Prefix: u-, oku- 
Plural Prefix: ovo- 

uld, bed 
ovdld, beds 
uta, gun 
ovdta, guns 

Concordial agreement for 
uld unenk, large bed 
ovdld dnSnd, large beds 
uta utito, small gun 

Singular Prefix: w- 
Plural Prefix: ovi-, i- 
uti, tree 
oviti, trees 
upi, handle 
ovipi, handles 

Concordial agreement for 
uti unene, large tree 
oviti vinenk, large trees 

Singular Prefix: o- 
Plural Prefix: olo- 
dndjo, house 
oldndjo, houses 
dmangu, chair 
dldmangUy chairs 

Concordial agreement for 
6ndj6 yiwa, good house 
oldndjd viwa, good houses 
dmaygu yitito, small chair 

Singular Prefix: olu- 
Plural Prefix: olo-, a- 
dluni, fly 
dl&ni, flies 
dluhSygo, wild plum 
dlohtygo, wild plums 



CLASS 2 

Relative: u-, ku- 

Relative: a- 

dkulu, leg 

dvdlu, legs 

okwdkwd, arm 

ovdkwd, arms 
Class 2: 

otf&A dZifo, small guns 

dkulu kutito, small leg 

dvdlu dtito, small legs 
CLASS 3 

Relative: u- 
Relative: vi- 
utima, heart 
ovitima, hearts 
itima, hearts 

Class 3: 

utima utito, small heart 

ovitima vitito, small hearts 
CLASS 4 

Relative: yi- 

Relative: vi- 

dyg&mb&, ox 

oldygfrmbb, oxen 

dygulu, pig 

dldygulu, pigs 

Class 4: 

dlomdygu vitito, small chairs 
dygulu yinSnb, large pig 
oloygulu vinknh, large pigs 

CLASS 5 

Relative: Zm- 
Relative: w- f a- 
olwi (olu-i), stream 
oldndwi, streams 
olwiyd, broom 
oldndwfyd, brooms 
dlwiyd, brooms 



Language 



243 



Concordial agreement for 
oluni lutito, small fly 
oldni vitito, small flies 
olwi lunknk, large stream 
oldndwi vinkne, large streams 

Singular Prefix: otci- 
Plural Prefix: ovi-, i- 
otcimunu, thief 
dvimunu, thieves 
imunu, thieves 
otcitunu, pit 
ovitunu, pits 

Concordial agreement for 
otcitunu tcinknk, large pit 
ovitunu vinene, large pits 

Singular Prefix: e- 

Plural Prefix: a-, ova- 

ekd, hand 

ovdkd, hands 

ep{d, field 

ovdpyd, fields 

ewe, stone 

ov&we", stones 

dp&kd, fruit 

Concordial agreement for 
ekd litito, small hand 
dvdkd dtito, small hands 

Singular Prefix: -, i- 
Plural Prefix: ova- 

imbo, belly 
dv&imbd, bellies 

Concordial agreement for 

imb6 linenk, large belly 
ov&imbd dnene, large bellies 
isd litito, small eye 



Class 5: 

olwSyd luwa, good broom 
dldndwiyd viwa, good brooms 
clink, yd dwa, good brooms 

CLASS 6 

Relative: tci- 
Relative: vi- 
itunu, pits 
dtcitd, one hundred 
ovitd, hundreds 
dtcipd, skin 
ovipd, skins 

Class 6: 

dtcipd tciwa, good skin 
ovipd viwa, good skins 

CLASS 7 

Relative: li- 
Relative: a- 
dvdpdkd, fruits 
dpdkd, fruits 
ekdndu, wrong 
dvdkdndu, wrongs 
dkdndu, wrongs 
hpumu, corncob 
dpumu, corncobs 

Class 7: 

epyd liwa, good field 
dvdpid dwa, good fields 

CLASS 7A 

Relative: li- 
Relative: a- 

isd, eye 
ovdsd, eyes 

Class 7A: 

ovdsd dtito, small eyes 
imbd lidngfrmbe, belly of ox 
dvdimbd dlongdmbd, bellies of oxen 



244 The Ovimbundu 

CLASS 8 
As previously stated, the prefixes of this class signify diminutive 
forms. In Chewa, one of the languages spoken in Nyasaland 
Protectorate, these prefixes and the augmentative prefixes when 
used with the personal nouns convey a somewhat derogatory mean- 
ing. In Zulu the diminutive and augmentative suffixes, although 
not determining classes, are likewise of this nature when employed 
with nouns of the personal class. The records upon which this 
brief description of Umbundu is based were not clear on this point, 
but I note that -tito means "small," so that the distinction between 
dkalume ("little man") and ulume utito, translated in the field notes 
as "small man," may be of considerable importance. Likewise, 
otcvmunu ("thief"), Class 6, may be an augmentative-derogatory 
form in origin, provided that there is an augmentative class and 
that it coincides with Class 6. 

Singular Prefix: oka- Relative: ka- 

Plural Prefix: otu- Relative: tu- 

okandjo, little house otwalume, little men 

otundjo, little houses okatcipd, little skin 

dkalume, little man dtuvipd, little skins 

Concordial agreement for Class 8: 

dkamglq kdwa, good little child 
otum<m tuwa, good little children 
dkandjd kdygulu, little house of (the) pig 
dtundjd twdldrjgulu, little houses of the pigs 

PRONOUNS 

The personal pronouns are given below. Those for the third 
person are obviously Class 1 pronouns. Pronouns for the other 
classes were not obtained. These forms are of the independent or 
absolute type. 





Singular 


Plural 


First Person 


dmh 


Uu 


Second Person 


6v& 


kne 


Third Person, Class 1 


eye 


dvd 



The possessive pronominal stems are to a great extent identical 
with the absolute forms, but follow the nouns which they qualify, 
and are preceded by the concord of the thing possessed and the 
qualificative formative (a). In some instances this formative is 



Language 245 

elided. Again, for the third person we can give only the forms of 

Class 1. 

Singular Plural 

First Person -ygl -etu (q) 

Second Person -6ve -ene (c) 

Third Person, Class 1 -M -vd 

(c) Note that the tone differs from that of the "absolute" forms. 

Examples of the use of the possessive: 
dtcitunu tc&yge, my pit ukqi wetu, our woman 

dtcitunu tcdve, your pit akqi vetu, our women 

dtcitunu tc&hk, his (Class 1) pit uti wdvb, your tree 
otcitunu tcetu, our pit oviti vjene, your (pi.) trees 

dtcitunu teem, your (pi.) pit uti wahk, his (Class 1) tree 

dtcitunu tc&vd, their (Class 1) pit uti w&vd, their (Class 1) tree 
dvitunu vj&ygk, my pits oviti vi&vd, their (Class 1) trees 

dvitunu vi&vd, their (Class 1) pits 6ndj6 yetu, our house 
omunu w&ygh, my slave 6ndj6 yene, your (pi.) house 

omunu wdvk, your slave 6ndj6 yavd, their (Class 1) house 

omunu w6M, his (Class 1) slave oldndjd v\etu, our houses 
dm&nu vdygk, my slaves oluhe'ygd Iw&yge, my wild plum 

om&nu v6vk, your slaves dluhSygd Iwdvh, your wild plum 

dm&nu v&hd, his (Class 1) slaves dluhSygd IvobM, his (Class 1) wild 
dm&nu vetu, our slaves plum 

dm&nu vene, your (pi.) slaves dkam$lo\ k&ygb, my little child 
dm&nu v&vd, their (Class 1) slaves dk&ndjd kdvk, your little house 
ukqi w&ygk, my woman (my wife) dtundjd twdvh, your little houses 
ukqi wdvh, your woman 

The following examples of syntax were not recorded on the 
dictaphone, therefore they have not been phonetically analyzed. 

The verb stem is seen in the imperative singular: 
tuyga, build (thou) tila, flee (thou) 

tuyga ondjo, build the house 

Example of imperative plural ending with i: 
tuygi, build ye till, flee ye 

PRINCD7AL TENSES 

FUTURE 

The following examples suggest that there is no formal distinc- 
tion between the present and the future: 

n di tuyga onjo or nunga onjo, I shall build the house 
o tuyga onjo, you will build the house 



246 The Ovimbundu 

tuyga onjo, he will build the house 
tu tuyga onjo, we shall build the house 
vu tuyga onjo, you will build the house 
va tuyga onjo, they will build the house 
omunu o tuyga, 1 a person builds 
omanu va tuyga, the people build 
omiapia yi tuyga, a swallow builds 
olomiapia vi tuyga, swallows build 
eveke li tuyga, the fool will build 
ocimunu ci tuyga, the thief will build 
ovimunu vi tuyga, the thieves will build 
okamola ka tila, the little child will flee 
otumala tu tuyga, the little children will build 
olusenge lu tila (monitor lizard), the lizard will flee 

PAST 

n da tuyga onjo, I built the house 
wa tuyga onjo, you built the house 
wa tuyga onjo, he built the house 
tua tuyga onjo, we built the house 
va tuyga onjo, they built the house 
ocimunu ca tila, the thief fled 
ongombe ya tila, the ox fled 
eveke Via tila, the fool fled 
okamola ka tila, the little child fled 
omunu wa tila, the person fled 

The pronoun as object comes between the prefix and the verb: 

ombua ya ci lumana, 2 the dog bit it 

ocimunu co lumana, the thief bit him 

cu lumana, it will bite him 

olusenge emalanaga lu lilumana, the lizard will bite the cheetah 

okamola olunyihi lua ka lumana, the little child, the bee stung him 

The perfect tense uses the prefix of the past tense with -He or 
-ele added to the stem of the verb. The perfect is used to indicate 
an action in some definite past time, or to state a condition which 
has ceased: 

ulume wa solele ukai wake, the man used to love his wife 
helaombuayalumanele omunu (ulume), yesterday the dog bit a man 

1 The o is not a pronoun but is used to preserve concord. 

2 The letter y is part of the concord. The letter y survives from the personal 
pronoun eye meaning "he." Letter a indicates past tense; ci means "it" or 
"thing." Hence the literal meaning is "dog he thing bit." 



Language 247 

enyamuale va tuygile olonjo, last year they built the houses 

The causative is expressed by the suffix -isa: 

va tuygisa onjo, they caused the house to be built 

o toygisa ombinja, he will cause a shirt to be sewed 

The suffix -ila has the force of a preposition: 
ombua ya tilila konjo, the dog fled to the house 
olusenge lua fila vocitunyu, the lizard died in the pit 
Illustrations of indirect object: 

wa tuygila ukai onjo, he built the house for the woman 
va tu tongela olombinja, they sewed the shirts for us 
The prefix oku is the sign of the infinitive: 
oku tuyga, to build 
oku tila, to flee 
oku Via, to eat 

The subjunctive is expressed by changing final a to e: 
a tuyge onjo, let him build the house 
va tile, let them flee 

va sia epangu okuti oco ovava a pite, they left a hole so that the 
water might pass 

The auxiliary ka ("to go") is used with all tenses: 

o ka tuyga kimbo, he will go and build at the village 

wa ka tuyga onjo, he has gone to build a house 

wa ka tuygile onjo, he has been there and built a house 

The negative is expressed in the following words: 

si tuygi, I shall not build 

ku tuygi, thou wilt not build 

ka tuygi, he will not build 

ka tu tuygi, we will not build 

ka va tuygi, they will not build 

ongombe ka yi tuygi, the ox will not build 

ocimunu ka ci tuygi, the thief will not build 

olusenge ka lu tila, the lizard will not flee 

okamola ka ka tuygi, the little child will not build 

ukai ka tuygi, the woman will not build 

The past negative is expressed as follows: 

sa tuygile, I did not build 

kua tuygile, you did not build 

ka tuygile, he did not build 

ka tua tuygile, we did not build 



248 



The Ovimbundu 



ka wa tuygili, you did not build 

ka va tuygile, they did not build 

omanu ka va yongola oku tila, the people do not wish to flee 

ocimunu ka ci yongola upange, the thief does not wish work 

ha ngombe ko, it is not an ox 

ha njoko, it is not a house 

ha munuko, it is not a person 

ha manuko, they are not people 

ha ci munuko, he is not a thief 

ha meko, it is not I 

he yeko, it is not he 

ha veko, it is not you 

he tuko, it is not we 

he neko, it is not you 

ha voko, it is not they 

si ci munuko, I am not a thief 

ku ci munuko, you are not a thief 

ha ci munuko, he is not a thief 

ka tui munuko, we are not thieves 

ka wi munuko, you are not thieves 

ha i munuko, they are not thieves 

Transcription of Folklore Stories 



Ombwa khyau, 
Dog on bridge 

olwi. Vovava 
stream. In water 

yinene ydsltu. 
big of meat. 

vovava hd yi 
in water in order to 

nelisa dldnumba 
lost pieces 

yikwavo 
(the) other 

oluygdygd. 
greed. 



Ombwa 
Dog 

okdsitu 
little meat 



lolwisd 
with Greed 

vdmkld. 
in mouth. 



Iw&yo 1 
His 

Yi 
It 



li 



Ibkuybkdyoka 
there to cross 



y% 

it 

Ombwa 
Dog 

kwatd 
catch 



letemo 
sees 

yd I6ld 
dropped 

dsltu 
meat 



dmbwd 
dog 

okdsitu 
little meat 



yekwdvd 
another 

kdhe; 
his; 



y% 
it 



lete 



ls6 

Eye 



vivdli, 
two, 

pdlwi. 
v in stream. 

lilmdld mdld 

sees 
(continuously) 



yinene 
large 

yikwavo 
the other 

Yd vi 
It then 

ondjdmba, 
elephant, 



yikwavd 
other. 

ya 

it 



momo 
because 



nelisd 
lost 

dku lienda 
in going 



lonumbd 
with piece 

yd wild 

it threw itself 

Omd yd 
Thus it 

kdile layd, 
was with him, 

o kwete 
he had 

ka li ka 
it is not 



velela ohatu. 

increased meat-hunger. 

Presumably an adoption of the well-known European fable of the dog and his 
reflection. 



Language 



249 



Sdmd 

King 



Tciyukd 
Tciyuka 



S&mb Tciyukd dmQlq, d djofyd wde'ndd ku Kaygandji 
King Tciyuka son of John went to Kangandji 



okulid dvimbu. 

to eat fines, 
(impose) 

dvimbu vjetu. 

fines of ours." 



who 



k& Me 

went (and) 

imposed 



V&ti 
They 
said, 

Eyi 
He 

dvimbu, 
fines; 



tambula 
"Take 

Tciyukd 
Tciyuka 

wd 
he 



ted sdkd. 

that which 

is proper. 



Kdkwkne kulivo 

Among there 

yourselves are also 



hati, kwa k&fle ukdygd 
said, "There was once a hunter 



kdndjila 

along the 

path 

wdtild 
fled; 



wa yeva 
he heard 



wd Idndd 
he climbed 



ondjuvuygo 
a rustling 



tambula 
received 

ykatu 
of iguana 



dpfyu. 
(a) stick. 



lomfylq 

with 
children 



vahL 
his. 



Okwiya 
Coming 

Eyb 
He 



vuti 
tree 



N6ke 
After- 
ward 



btdtu 
iguana 



dkwiya 
coming 



luta 
with 
gun 

wdmdld 



walnh. Opfyu 
his. (The) stick 



yasiala pdsi. 
remained down 
(on the 
ground). 



dpfyu 
stick; 



hati, 
said, 



hati kdtdkd 
said, 'Not so 



dpfyu 
stick 



yayge. 
my.' 



y6vk 
yours 



n db 
then 



wa Idndd layd. 
you (would) with it.' 
have climbed 



Etatu 
Iguana 

Ndke 
After- 
wards 



hati 
said, 



n dati. 
'No. 



n d& luld. 
'I have 
seen.' 

»D& 
If 



etatu 
iguana 



kdmanu. 
to the 
people. 

kimbd 
to village 



Ukdygd 
Hunter 



wdpumbd, 
lost, 



wdtundbpd 

(he) went 

away 



wdtdmbuld, 
took (it), 

dvdkd, 
empty 
handed, 



Ukdygd 
Hunter 

yd k&ite 
it had been 

waited 

he gave 

(it) 

wdendb 
(he) went 



liavd. 
his. 



NdM 
'Afterward 



wdldUkd 
he invited 



dndjevd 
a hunt 



votcisuku, 
of the tall grass, 



6tcd 
so that 



tedsi 
all 



tc&pid. 

was 
burned. 

a tilila 

one may 

flee 

iyilakd 
'(I will) 
enter 
there.' 



Etatu 
Iguana 

kd ku 
it does 



hamd 
however 



akdld 
was 



votcisuku. 
in the 
tall grass. 



Hati dvandjd 6kd 
He said, 'One looks where 



moUhd. 
not appear.' 



Otcd 

Then 



ka swikd. 
He could not be 
contained 
(in it). 



Etimbd 
(The) body 



ds&ygd 
he found 

lidiyild, 
entered, 



dkaluygi, hati 
a little he said, 
hole, 

utcild wdsi&ld 
the tail was left 



250 



The Ovimbundu 



pdsamwd. 
outside. 

wHdtu 
of the 
iguana 

kdtdkd 
'Not so 



Ndke 
Afterwards 

pdsamwd. 
outside.' 



ukdygd 
hunter 

Leye 
And he 



wSyd. 
came. 

hdti, 
said, 



otcd 
that (is) 



"Dd 
If 



lidk&ile 
it had been 



kimbd 
body 

l\6vk 
yours 



lidygk. 
my.' 

»dd 

it 



Hdti 
(He) said, 

n d& luld. 
'I have seen. 

Ukdygd 
Hunter 



dvdndjd utclld 
'One sees (the) tail 

Etdtu hdti 
' Iguana said, 



hdti 
said, 



lidiyild. 

would have 

entered.' 



"Oke 

Afterward 



wdnayuld 
(he) stretched 
out 



Otcd 
So 



dmdkd 
knife 

Tclyukd 
Tciyuka 



yahh, 
his, 

hdti, 
said, 



wd tetd. 
he cut. 



Otcd 
Thus 



ame 
"I 



"did 
shall 



etdtu 
iguana 

tcdyge*. 
eat mine. 



kdtdkd. 
'Not so. 

ukdygd 
hunter 

lidfd. 
died." 

Noke 
After 



"dd 
if 



ywete 
I have 



tcene, 
yours, 



lame 
with me 



wiyi, 
come, 



u 
you 



llsdygeld. 

with it will 

find yourselves." 



Hdsi la n Guli 
Lion and Hyena 



a 

he 

that 



Tcisukild 

Tcisukila 

katule 

you cause 

to arise 



wd tumild 
sent 



kusdmd 

to king 



Tcipdyge 
Tciponge, 



ukulu 
(an) elder 



unene 
great 



IdvdkwSndje. 

with young 

men. 



hdti, a ende 
said, "Let him go 

Veye va lemele 
Let them they may 



ofekd ydygb, yd ndmbd. Sdmd 
country my, which despises me." King 



dlusdpd hdti, 
a proverb, said, 

tcdhe. n Guli 
his Hyena 

(things). 



kwd kdla 
"There was 



dygull, 

hyena, 



Tcipdyge 
Tciponge 

dmdnu 
people 



yu 
he 



vdsl 
all 



etci 
when 



wd endd 
(he) went 



kimbo 
to village 



vd hdyga 
they him 
drove off 



lolohdndji. 
and clubs. 



n Oke 
Then 



tcovdla 

it him 

hurt 



ku hdsl, 
(to) lion 



eye 
he 



tela 
able 



oku 
to 



kutimd 

to (the) 

heart 

kwdtd 
catch 



hdti, 
he said, 



ha 
'I go 



wd tela 
told 

vo levdld 
from him 
borrowed 

lovdtd 
with 
guns 

sembikd 
I engage 



dmdnu. 
people.' 



Etci 
When 



a 
he 



sdygd 
found 



hdsi, 
lion, 



hdsi 
lion 



hdti, 
said, 



twendd 
'Let us go 



ku 
to 



bulu 
jackal 




he 



kweth 
has 



esuyga, 
honesty 



he 



dtclmbanda 
(is) medicine- 
man 



tclnene'. 

great.' 



Otcd 
So 



hdsi la n guli vd likwql oku inda 
lion and hyena they followed to go 
each other 



Language 



251 



ko bulu. 
to jackal. 

ame" 
I 

Amk, 
I 



Bulu 
Jackal 

*djimbem6 
thrust in 



hdti, tu vdndjiliyd 
said, 'We shall search 



imbd liovisdndL Otcd 
village of driver ants. Thus 



"djiyild 
shall enter 



utcild 
tail 

vimbo 
in the 
village 



wdygd. 
my. 

oko 

there 



lidsi. 
all. 



Otcd 
So 

ku 
to 



Omdnu 
People 



Hci 
when 



vatundd 

they come 

out 



ove 
you 



EnS 
You 

nild 

I shall 

sprinkle 

u hdsi 
lion 



usidld 
remain 

ovisdnde 
driver ants 



wendd 
go 



kofSkd. 

in country 

(outside). 

vimbo 
in the 
village 

loku kwdtd. 

(them) to 

catch. 



tea 

that 



sokd 
shall be 
enough 



oku 
to 



fetd 
pay 



Tcisukild, 
Tcisukila, 



n dd ydtuld 

"Should I cause 

to arise 



ofuka 
debt 

ukulu 
(an) elder 



ya n guli. Okd sapuld 
of hyena.' " This one tells 
goes 



tea sdkd 
it (would) 
be equal 

Mumunu 
am (a) 
person 

evdndd 
slowly 



H6si 
Lion 



oku sdnduld 
to scatter 



ofikd 
country 



ydhk, 
his, 



IdkwSndj^ 

with young 

men 

mdmd 
for 



vel&mte 

from the 

court 

ame 
I 



cmknh. 
great. 



Ove a 
You 



Tcisukild, 
Tcisukila, 



lemeld 



ofekd ydve 
country your 



6tc6 
so 



wa 
he 



u kola tciwd. 
you shall be well." 

H6si Id Bindji 
Lion and Wild Dog 

tuygd kusiyge'. Wd kuka. 
built in the woods. He was old. 



Kd kwite dygusu 
He had not strength 



ydku limwisa 

to provide 

himself 



dkulid. Wd sdka dku 
food. He thought to be 



luygukd. 
cunning. 



Yu 
He 



wdkndd 
went 



kblha, wd yd{ld 
to cave, he crawled 



Ovindmd 

The animals 



vidsi 
all 



kohondo, 
to a corner, 

vykyd v{6 

came they 

at him 



wdluvikiya 
he made out 

vdndjd, 
looked, 



dku vild. 
to be sick. 

n dd d veld dtcUi. 
if he is sick indeed. 



Etci v{eyd hdsi d I6ku vi tdkdild. Etci ovinama vyblwa 
As they lion he them ate. When animals many 

came 



vid 


kwdtiwa 


Id 


hdsi, 


bindji 


weya 


wd lurjgd. 


Eye 


o tdfi 


they 


were 
caught 


by 


lion, 


wild 
dog 


he came 


he took 
warning. 


He 


stands 



252 



The Ovimbundu 



kuveld wetevd. 
at open- of the 
ing cave. 



Wd pula 
He asked 



n db 
'lam 



vUd 
sick 



very." 



Wd 
He 



hdsi 
lion, 

laleka 
invited 



h&ti, 
saying, 

bindji 
wild dog 



wdkdl&pd. 

"Are you 

well?" 

oku iyild 
to enter 



Hdsi 
Lion 

vhUva 

into the 

cave 



hati, 
said, 

oku 
to 



vdygula l&he. 

talk with 

him. 



n da 
I 



limbuka 
noticed 



Bindji 
Wild dog 

dJcdsd 
tracks 



wa 
he 



OSl 
all 



kumbululd h&ti, n da tavd, pwdi 
replied saying, "I should but 

have agreed 



dimbd 
go 



dv&so 
toward 



kUevd. 
the cave. 



Kd kuli 
There are 



dkdsd dimbd dv&sd pds&mwd. Ted liygud mbwi ted 
no tracks going toward the outside." That goes down? it 

which (sinks) 

luygisd av& vd ywd. 
warns those who swim. 

Sign Language 

Various language signs are in use. The action of throwing a 
mat on the ground and laying the head on the hands indicates sleep. 
Inquiry about the health of a father may be made by stroking an 
imaginary beard. If the father is strong and well the reply will 
be a flection of the forearm to harden the biceps. 

There are dumb signs for numbers: 

(1) The right hand is used to bend the little finger of the left 
hand into the left palm. 

(2) The little finger and the one next to it on the left hand are 
turned over into the palm. 

(3) Three fingers are turned inward. 

(4) Four fingers are turned inward. 

(5) Four fingers and the thumb are turned inward. The thumb 
is then tapped with the index finger of the right hand. 

(6) The right hand is extended and the thumb of the left hand 
is placed on the little finger of the right hand. This action adds 
one to five. 

(7) The right hand is extended, then the thumb of the left hand 
is placed on the little finger and the one next to it. This adds two 
to five. 

(8) The thumb of the left hand is placed on the extended little 
finger, middle finger, and third finger of the left hand. 



Language 253 

(9) Four fingers of the right hand are placed on the thumb of the 
extended left hand. 

(10) The hands are placed together palm to palm. 

A very insulting sign is made in this way. The left arm is held 
up with the fist closed. The left wrist is grasped with the right 
hand. The left fist is then shaken while the right hand is still grasping 
the left wrist. "This is done when a man is very angry, and he 
cannot find words." 

A bending forward of the head accompanied by wide opening 
of the eyes and protrusion of the tongue means "you're a fool." 

Shaking the head means "no." If the right hand is shaken in 
front of the face with the index finger extended, a negative is implied. 
Nodding the head is an affirmative sign. To indicate absence of 
anything, or the completion of something, the index finger of the 
right hand is drawn across the mouth. Rubbing the palms together 
rapidly has the same significance. In order to call some one the 
right arm is extended with the palm down. If they summon some 
one from a distance the arm is lowered, while a scratching movement 
is made with the fingers. The sign indicating "go away" is a flipping 
of the hand outwardly, while the arm is extended. 

Riddles and Proverbs 

"There is a red belt round our field. What is it?" The answer 
is, "red ants." 

"We have somebody who lies all his life in our field. He always 
lies on one side." The answer is, "a squash." 

"We have a stump in the house that is always burning and 
always moving." This is a metaphor rather than a riddle. The 
stump is the log which is pushed forward into the fire. It is always 
alive yet is gradually dying. The saying is intended to refer to 
human lives. People are alive but their lives are becoming shorter 
each day. 

"What is it that we eat above and below the ground?" The 
answer is, "manioc, because the leaves and roots are eaten." 

"The turtle cannot climb up on a stump, some one has to put 
it there." This is said in reference to some person who gains a 
high position which he could attain only by influence and not 
through merit. 

When a person makes threats without being able to fulfil them 
the following expressions are appropriate: "Hot water does not 



254 The Ovimbundu 

burn a house." "Cold water does not make mush." "A sleeping 
dog does not catch a hare." 

If advice is given and disregarded, or if an effort fails and has 
seemed likely to do so, the people say, "Bark rope comes from a 
tree; if it does not come, leave it there." 

"He who sits by a pot of honey does not soon leave it." This 
means that a man does not readily leave that which he enjoys. 

"When eating honey a man does not put in his finger only once." 
A good thing is not used in small portions; or, one goes back to a good 
thing. 

When two people have a secret there is a saying, "They uncovered 
the pot, ate a little honey, and covered it up again." 

"If you are full of food, do not climb on a leopard's back." If 
you yourself are not hungry, this does not imply that the leopard 
has no appetite. In other words, do not be foolish through good 
fortune. 

"He caught no fish and lost his bracelet." This is said when an 
object of value is lost while performing a task of small importance. 
This saying would be applied to an instance of a man who left his 
work to take up a task for smaller payment. 

"If it is not heavy, it is not worth while." That which is desirable 
is deserving of some effort for attainment. 

The fact that something can be accomplished by a number of 
united people is expressed by the saying, "Where there is a crowd 
there is a bridge." 

"You may throw away what is in the hand, but you cannot throw 
away what is in the heart." It is difficult to dismiss important 
matters from mind. 

"You cannot tie a buck's head in a cloth. The horns will stick 
out." This means that a crime cannot be concealed. Murder 
will out. 

"That which destroyed the buck came from its own head." The 
hunter's whistle is a buck's horn. This means that man is the 
cause of his own troubles. 

"A chicken knows a dangerous thing." The implication is that 
a man should know. 

The English expression, "six of one and half a dozen of the other," 
is expressed by the Umbundu, "If it is on cattle or on people it is 
still a louse." 



Language 255 

Folklore Stories 
the leopard and the hare 

A hare said to a leopard who was about to eat him, "Don't eat 
me, I will give you something good." Holding out his hand the 
hare said, "I have a little bit of something good in my hand now, 
taste it." 

This was honey that the hare gave to the leopard, who licked his 
mouth and said, "This is a good thing that you have given me." 

The hare promised to bring some more honey to the leopard. 
Next morning the hare went to the woods, collected a swarm of 
bees and placed them in a gourd under a covering of honey. The 
hare told the leopard to gather his wife and family into a hut, 
saying, "You will have a good feast of honey, but you must be 
careful to close the door and fill up all the holes in the walls." 

The leopard was told to drop the gourd on the floor of the hut 
in order to get the honey. He did exactly as he was told. He 
gathered his family in the house, closed the door, and filled up all 
the holes in the walls. Then when all was dark he dropped the 
gourd on the ground to get the honey. The gourd broke and out 
came a swarm of bees. The hare was listening outside. Presently 
the cries died down, then the hare went away thinking that the 
leopard and all his family were dead. The mother and the young 
leopards died, but the father leopard recovered from the stings 
of the bees. 

The leopard said, "Whenever I find a hare I will kill him." 

One day the leopard caught the hare who had given him the 
swarm of bees. Of course the hare was frightened, so he said, 
"I made a mistake, I thought that there was nothing but honey in 
the gourd." 

The hare pleaded for his life promising to give the leopard some 
good oil to make his coat shine. "First of all you must let me drive 
a wooden peg into your head," said the hare. 

The leopard allowed this, and, of course, died immediately. 

THE HARE IS PUNISHED 

A young leopard and a young hare were tired of obeying their 
mothers, so they decided to kill them. The hare said, "Let us eat 
your mother first of all." 

They did so. The hare pretended that he had killed his mother 
and buried her in the woods, but the truth was that the hare had 



256 The Ovimbundu 

hidden his mother, hoping that the leopard would forget about the 
agreement they had made. The leopard was suspicious, so he 
searched the woods and at last found the hare and his mother in 
hiding. The leopard ate both of them. 

THE BIRD AND THE BAT 

The bird Choko met a rat with a long snout. The rat, whose 
name is Enganga, said, "Run from the drill," meaning his snout. 
The bird was afraid, so flew up into the branches of a tree. 

One day the bird saw that the rat was asleep, so summoned 
courage to fly down and tap his nose with a stick. The bird saw 
that the nose was soft, so flew back to the tree calling out, "Brother 
rat said, 'Run from the drill, run from the drill,' but I smashed 
it and found that it was meat." 

The bird's cry is expressed in Umbundu by the call "Kota Enganga 
wa ndinga hati, tila eseka, tila eseka." 

THE QUAIL AND THE ROOSTER 

The quail found a large fat white grub under the bark of a tree. 
He said to the rooster, "You live with people who have fire, so go 
and cook this for me." 

The rooster carried the grub to the village in his mouth. The 
people of the village liked these grubs, so they caught the rooster 
and took the grub from his beak. 

The quail waited for a long time, then called, "Rooster, rooster, 
bring the grub." 

The rooster replied, "The fools have eaten it." 

THE STORY OF THE CRICKET 

The cricket was very quiet; he did not talk too much or quarrel 
with other people. One day he invited people to dig in his field, 
and promised that he would give them some beer. The first helper 
to arrive was the rooster, who drank a pot of beer. While drinking 
the beer, the rooster looked out and saw the wild cat coming toward 
the cricket's home. The rooster was very much afraid of the wild 
cat, so hid under the bed. Presently the wild cat entered the house 
and received a pot of beer. But looking out he saw the dog coming 
that way, so hid under the bed. 

The dog said to the cricket, "Did I see somebody as I came 
along the path?" 



Language 257 

The cricket said that nobody had called. While the dog was 
drinking the gourd of beer he saw the hyena coming, and he was 
so afraid that he hid under the bed. Soon after the hyena had 
settled comfortably in the hut, a man carrying a gun approached 
the cricket's home. The hyena felt sure that the hunter would 
kill him so hid under the bed. All the animals were now crowded 
under the bed not daring to fight among themselves, because they 
were all afraid of the man. 

For a long time the hunter sat drinking beer and talking to the 
cricket. The animals under the bed were quite safe because they 
kept quiet. Suddenly a cockroach fell from the roof to the floor 
of the hut. The rooster was so excited that he forgot that he was 
hiding. He dashed out from under the bed and gobbled up the 
cockroach. The wild cat then became excited and dashed out after 
the rooster. The dog followed the cat, and the hyena attacked the 
dog. There was a terrible noise as the animals fought in the middle 
of the floor. The cat killed the rooster. The dog killed the cat. 
The hyena killed the dog. The hunter shot the hyena, then went 
away. Presently a tortoise arrived. He was frightened when he 
saw the dead bodies of all these animals, so sent for the little hare. 
The hare dug up the cricket from the hole where he was hiding. 
The tortoise and the hare killed the cricket, because they said he 
had caused the death of all the other animals. 

THE WATTLED CRANE (EPANDA) AND THE 
SPUR-WING GOOSE (ONJAVA) 

These two birds agreed to lay their eggs together in one nest. 
Onjava is a clean bird who washes her eggs, but Epanda is a dirty 
bird whose eggs are never clean. The little ones of Epanda hatched 
out looking dirty and ugly, while the little ones of Onjava were 
pretty and clean. 

One day the two birds went in different directions to find food 
for their young. Epanda watched Onjava out of sight, then returned 
to the nest and stole the pretty young ones. When Onjava returned 
with worms to feed her chicks she found only the young of Epanda, 
so began to cry, "Epanda, Epanda, Epanda, with your long neck 
and long beak, you have stolen my young ones." 

Onjava set out to follow Epanda. The little ugly chicks of 
Epanda kept up with Onjava for a time then died because they 
were so tired. When, at last, Epanda was overtaken, she said to 



258 The Ovimbundu 

Onjava, "You have killed my chicks by making them walk so far, 
I shall keep your children." 

Then the great hornbill was called in as judge. He said that 
the chicks were to stay with Epanda. For a time the little birds 
did as the judge had said, but soon they returned to their mother, 
Onjava, because they were clean birds and Epanda was a dirty bird. 

THE HARE (NDIMBA) AND THE LEMUR (EVOVO) 

Evovo (the Great Galago) is somewhat like a lemur. It has 
gray bushy fur and a long fluffy tail. 

One day Evovo addressed the hare, saying, "0 comrade, what 
is the noise I am always hearing from the place where you have 
your house." 

Ndimba answered, "My friend, have you never seen the people 
carry me in a hammock while they sing?" 

"No, I never saw anything like that," responded Evovo. 

Ndimba invited Evovo to the plains where they hid themselves, 
Ndimba in one place, Evovo in another. Presently the two 
hidden animals heard the sound of people singing, "We know where 
Ndimba is hidden." 

Then the barking of dogs was heard, and the people called their 
dogs, shouting, "Haow! Haow!" 

Ndimba said, "I hear them coming with my hammock." 

Evovo replied excitedly, "Yes, yes, I can hear." 

The dogs chased the two animals. Ndimba knew the paths 
across the plain and so escaped, but Evovo knew of no hiding place, 
so was killed. 

THE FRUIT BAT AND THE SUN 

The child of the sun was sick. The bat was a good ocimbanda 
(medicine-man), so the sun sent for him to cure his child. The bat 
arrived without delay, performed the cure, and returned home. 
The sun was very grateful at the time, but soon forgot the kindness 
of the bat. By and by the son of the bat fell ill with a sickness for 
which the sun was a clever ocimbanda. 

The messengers from the bat arrived after the sun had risen 
above the horizon. The sun told them that he could not come to 
cure any one after he had started across the sky on his journey for 
the day. 

"Come very early tomorrow," he said. Next morning the 
messengers were sent away again, because they were too late. 



Language 259 

Sadly these messengers returned to the bat with their disappointing 
news, only to find that the young bat was dead. 

The bat said, "I hate the sun and I will never look at him again." 
The bat made a vow that he would never again go out into the 
sunlight to find food. 

This is the reason why the bat never flies by day. He hangs 
head downward in a dark place all day, so that he will not see the sun. 

THE DOG AND THE LIZARD 

The dog and the lizard met on the pounding rocks where a 
woman had left a little meal when she finished pounding her corn. 
When the dog began to lick up the meal the lizard said, "You ought 
to be ashamed to eat this. All the corn on the rocks belongs to 
me because you have people in the village who give you food." 

The dog said that this was not true. "Come to the village with 
me and I will show you how the people treat me," continued the dog. 

The two animals went to the village together, and the dog 
found a hiding place for the lizard in a fence near his home. When 
the dog entered the hut a woman picked up a stick and drove him 
out. Then the dog cried as he came running from the hut, "Tala! 
tola! sa ci popele," meaning "See! see! Didn't I say so?" 

Ever since that the lizard and the dog have been great friends 
who may be seen on the pounding rocks eating together. 

THE JERBOA AND THE LEOPARD 

This story which is told at Ngalangi is essentially the same as 
one related at Elende, but in the latter version the dog and the 
hyena are the actors. 

The leopard hired the jerboa to act as nurse to her cubs. While 
the mother leopard was absent hunting for food, the jerboa decided 
to eat one of these fat little leopards. 

Presently the mother leopard returned and said, "Bring out the 
children, I will feed them." 

The jerboa brought out the cubs one by one, taking care to bring 
out the first one twice over. Next day when the mother leopard 
was away the jerboa ate another cub. Again the leopard asked for 
her little ones. The jerboa had been placed in charge of four cubs. 
As two were eaten, the jerboa had to bring out each of the two 
remaining cubs twice over in order to satisfy the mother leopard. 
On the third day the jerboa ate another little leopard. When the 



260 The Ovimbundu 

mother leopard returned, the jerboa brought out the only cub four 
times. On the fourth day the jerboa ate the last of the cubs. 

When the mother leopard came home the jerboa was terrified, 
so said, "The cubs are not very well, you must go in the room to 
feed them; I cannot bring them out." When the leopard had gone 
into the sleeping room the jerboa ran quickly into his hole in the 
ground. 



These tales from my records were all told to me by Ngonga. It 
is true that some of the stories appear in the Umbundu reader 
"Olosapo Vioku Likisa Oku Tanga" (Kamundongo, 1914). But when 
this book was printed Ngonga was already well acquainted with all 
the stories therein, and many more. Most of the tales were, and 
are today, an integral part of the Umbundu language. 

My own inquiries had the same result as those of Chatelain in 
revealing a preponderance of stories of animals. Yet W. C. Bell 
was able to collect several tales relating entirely to the adventures 
of human beings {Jour. Amer. Folk-Lore, XXXV, pp. 116-150). 
At times there is a didactic theme running through a tale, which 
emphasizes the value of courage, presence of mind, and perseverance. 
A sense of humor is shown in the conversations of animals and the 
tricks which the smaller creatures use to the discomfort of the larger 
animals. 

Comparative study of stories told by the Ovimbundu with those 
from other parts of Africa opens up a field of research, especially 
in view of the long caravan journeys of the Ovimbundu. Chatelain 
narrates the Angolan story of the frog who boasted that he could 
ride the elephant, and contrived to do so by a clever ruse {Jour. 
Amer. Folk-Lore, VII, p. 62). The Nigerian story of the tortoise 
who fulfilled the same boast is told by A. B. Ellis (Yoruba-speaking 
Peoples of the Slave Coast, London, 1894, p. 265). 

The Ovimbundu have the story of the tortoise who made a wager 
with the antelope respecting a race which they agreed to run. The 
tortoise won the wager by placing one of his brothers at the winning 
post. The Umbundu version is given in "Olosapo" (p. 53), and there 
is a Cameroon version. 

The tug-of-war story which tells of a trick played against the 
hippopotamus and the elephant is known to the Ovimbundu. The 
story has a wide distribution with local variations. Sometimes 
the elephant and the hippopotamus are unwittingly made to pull 



Language 261 

against one another by some small clever animal such as the monkey 
or the hare. In the version given by H. S. Stannus (Harvard African 
Studies, vol. Ill, p. 329) the hare perpetrates this ruse. The version 
given by Smith and Dale (The Ila-speaking Peoples of Rhodesia, vol. 
II, p. 377) makes the contestants a hippopotamus and a rhinoceros, 
but the hare again arranges the tug-of-war. E. Dayrell (Folklore 
Stories from Southern Nigeria, London, 1910, p. 104) gives another 
variant of the tug-of-war story, which states that one end of the rope 
was made fast to a palm tree. The hippopotamus was under water 
so he could not see the object against which he was pulling. He 
thought he was tugging against the tortoise as arranged. 

Umbundu stories are humorous and didactic, while some indicate 
a process of rationalizing. An example of the latter kind is found 
in the story explaining why the bat flies at night. Dayrell (pp. 36, 51) 
gives two different versions of this rationalizing tale. 

These folklore stories of the Ovimbundu give information 
respecting vocabulary, structure of the language, powers of observa- 
tion, customs, and ideas of conduct. 

I have found no stories which illustrate the grafting of elements 
from two different cultures. In some parts of Africa tales may be 
heard which contain blended elements from a Negro and a Semitic 
culture, as in Nigeria. But assimilation of features which were 
foreign to the story at its cultural origin does not occur in the tales 
given here, with the exception of the European story of the greedy 
dog, which is an importation. 

The Ovimbundu were noted for their long caravan journeys, 
which were undertaken in territory occupied by tribes of the same 
linguistic family (Bantu), a fact which may account for the similarity 
of Umbundu and other Bantu versions of the same tales. 



IX. RELIGION 
Supreme Being 

Suku is the name of the most important dead person mentioned 
by the Ovimbundu. Ngonga says that Suku made mountains, rivers, 
sky, and people. The name Suku is known all over the great territory 
inhabited by the Ovimbundu. I have seen at the ombala of Ngalangi 
a small house of meditation where the king retires accompanied by 
an old woman. This retirement for communion with spirits of the 
dead takes place in time of drought, and a gourd filled with water 
is always kept in the house. In another village of the Ngalangi 
region I photographed a house of meditation for the king who re- 
tires for communion with spirits whenever he is troubled (Plate 
LXXXIX, Fig. 1). The painted marks on the door are said to be 
an indication to spirits that this is the king's house of meditation, 
but there is no reason for saying that the king communes with Suku. 

The evidence regarding Suku was supplemented at Ngalangi 
by two Ovimbundu boys who agreed that Suku was very important. 
They associated Suku with rain; but the word suku does not mean 
rain, water, or food; these are expressed by ombela, ovava, and 
okulia, respectively. I know of no meaning of the word suku which 
might assist in explaining the attributes of this respected spirit. 
Names of medicine-men are remembered and used but they are not 
associated with the name Suku. My informants at Ngalangi said 
that names of kings are sometimes coupled with the name Suku. 

At Ngalangi an informant stated that in the beginning every- 
thing was water. A man dropped from above, caused land to appear, 
and began hunting. At the side of a stream he saw an animal 
that disappeared beneath the water. He was about to shoot when 
he saw that the animal was a person something like himself, yet 
different. He took the animal home, mated with it, and reared a 
family. This story is told also at Cileso, about two hundred miles 
from Ngalangi. At Ngalangi I was informed that the first being 
was a calf with human attributes, who walked about on the rocks 
leaving mixed tracks of an animal and human kind, which may be 
seen to this day. 

Survival after Death 

There are ideas of reincarnation. Two Bailundu boys said that 
the lion was considered to be a powerful old man. If a lion is found 
dead divination is practised to discover the cause of death. If a 

262 



Religion 263 

lion visits a village an old man talks to it through the palisade. 
The conversation is carried on in a series of grunts, after which the 
lion goes away. One of my informants said that "lions and leopards 
are watchdogs for old men who have died." When one of these 
animals kills a domestic animal or a person, the assumption is that 
the predatory animal was sent by a deceased old man who requires 
a sacrifice. Ngonga of Elende said that "when a lion killed a man it 
was a sign that there was a bad spirit from the man's family within 
the lion." There is divination to find who requires a sacrifice, since 
some ancestor has been neglected. W. C. Bell relates an Umbundu 
tale of a woman who changed herself into a wild animal, but I was 
not able to ascertain that belief in transformation is held today 
(Jour. Amer. Folk-Lore, XXXV, p. 129). 

I am unable to prove that the Ovimbundu have definite ideas 
of the nature of a future life, but they certainly think of survival 
after death, and have clear concepts of good and bad spirits who 
influence the fortunes of the living. There is no idea of punishment 
or reward, but a bad man has a bad ghost which can do evil things. 
Spirits will follow their relations on earth; moreover, they will come 
to the house of bows where their property is preserved. 

A man returning from a hunt with trophies, or from the collec- 
tion of honey, will leave some of these on a grave. There is no idea 
of spirits in rivers and trees, but the first tree felled for building 
the house of a man of importance must not be allowed to fall 
violently. This may imply a belief in a tree-spirit. 

Spirits move at night only and mentioning the dead by name or 
whistling at night calls spirits. There are many instances of sacrifice 
connected with the idea of a spirit who has to be appeased. The 
medicine-man can induce a spirit to enter an image of wood. Thus 
there are wooden images containing spirits useful to the blacksmith. 
There is an image which can show travelers the right path when 
the medicine-man consults it (Plate XXI, Figs. 3, 5). 

Osande is a good spirit who will "bring good luck and do good 
things for the people, while Ondele is a bad spirit who harms the 
people," said Ngonga. When a person is sick, mad, or dizzy he 
has Ondele. Only a powerful ocimbanda can cast out Ondele. 
Ocilulu is the general name for a disembodied spirit, either good 
or bad. An Ekisi is an Osande; apparently the terms are synonymous. 

A spirit can die a second time. There is, for instance, an evil 
bird of the night whose name is Esuvi. This bird is able to catch 
a spirit in order to make it die a second death. A living person 



264 The Ovimbundu 

suffers sickness or misfortune if an ancestral spirit dies a second 
death. A person who has bad health says, "The spirit of my grand- 
father has been caught by Esuvi." The name of the good spirit 
Osande is used by a person who is suffering. Such a one says, "I 
have no more Osande." These instances clearly reveal a belief in 
the dependence of human welfare on the interest of benevolent 
ancestral spirits. 

After a lapse of three months I asked Ngonga again about 
Osande and Ondele. He confirmed what he had previously said, but 
spoke in the plural of these spirits; good spirits are called Olosande, 
bad spirits are called Olondele. The medicine-man will visit a hut 
to foretell the future, and while there he puts a concoction in an image 
to which he addresses questions. He plugs his nostrils, then in a 
falsetto voice feigns answers from the image. The father of a family, 
or possibly the mother's brother, may kill an animal in front of the 
hut on this occasion. He then says to Olosande, "We hope when 
we kill this there will be no more sickness." The Ovimbundu are 
afraid of death, and they therefore sacrifice to Olosande, asking that 
there shall be no death in the family. 

I do not know whether the Ovimbundu distinguish multiple 
souls as some Negro tribes do. The part of a man which does not 
die is sometimes called utima, which is the word for heart. Dr. 
M. W. Ennis says that the utima and the omuenyo are both names 
of the spirit existing in a living body. Ngonga seems certain that 
every person irrespective of age, rank, and sex has a spirit, but I 
could find no evidence that the Ovimbundu visualize a separation 
of ranks or sexes after death. When a man kills himself he is buried 
near a river so that his spirit will go to the sea, and for the same 
reason a murdered man is buried near a river. At Ngalangi I inquired 
from other Ovimbundu people concerning suicide. Women who 
commit suicide generally do so by hanging or drowning. Men stab 
themselves in the heart or use a flintlock gun, the trigger of which 
they pull with their toes. It is feared that the spirit of a suicide will 
return to induce another suicide in the family, therefore there is 
anxiety to rid the community of these spirits. 

Religious Beliefs and Conduct 
The Ovimbundu have many high standards of conduct, some of 
which have been mentioned in dealing with the education of children. 
There is, however, no idea of sin. That is to say, there are no com- 
mands laid down by some authority which is more than human. 



Religion 265 

Nevertheless, the idea of crime is well developed, and there are 
many actions which are punishable because they contravene the 
laws of the tribe. Adultery is a crime on a par with theft; but 
adultery is not a sin. Suku, the supreme being, issues no commands. 
Ancestral spirits are concerned only with sacrifice and homage to 
themselves. There is no theory of punishment or reward in a future 
life according to conduct on earth. 

Perhaps ekandu is the only word which could express sin. An 
Ocimbundu would say that murder is the chief ekandu. "Ekandu 
is to make anything have a bad time." To send a stranger along the 
wrong path is ekandu. It would be ekandu to throw an animal on 
the fire. It is ekandu if a man is guilty of fornication with his wife's 
sister. Such an act is said to be ekandu only if the wife's sister is 
visiting the house of the culprit. The male defaulter is regarded as 
blameless, but the people of the village from which the wife's sister 
came would be expected to pay the wronged wife. Sexual offences 
against young children are very serious. In fact the death penalty 
or banishment would be inflicted, and such offences are given by 
the Ovimbundu as examples of ekandu. 

This subject of moral responsibility leads naturally into the 
question of laws and penalties. There are among the Ovimbundu 
well-defined moral codes and clearly formulated tribal laws which 
have been described in chapter VI. 

Funeral Rites 
commoners 
In the village of Cilema in the district of Elende I witnessed 
the funeral rites of a boy aged twelve years. When a few hundred 
yards from the village, I heard sounds of drumming coming from 
a secluded place in the tall grass. On reaching the clearing four 
drummers were seen, each of whom held a tubular drum between 
his legs; these drums were of different lengths. The man on the 
left of the drumming squad played with an up and down movement 
of his left hand only, to provide the bass tone. Other drummers 
played with the palms and fingers of both hands. Thirty feet from 
the drummers stood a group of women who always started the 
rhythm for the drums by clapping their hands, and the hand-clapping 
continued as an accompaniment for the drums. 

Near-by, men were seated on the ground, while a large number 
of women walked about or sat on the ground chatting and smoking 
their pipes. The general impression was not one of solemnity. 



266 The Ovimbundu 

The interpretation of the chanting is "God has cheated me of a life." 
That is, God gave a life and he has taken it. 

My interpreter, who was a relative of the deceased boy, explained 
to the people that I was seriously interested. This was necessary, 
as they were afraid of ridicule and hostile opinion. I sat down by 
the father of the dead boy and talked with him through my 
interpreter. In the meantime I observed that the corpse was in 
a cloth-covered box slung on a pole, which was supported on the 
shoulders of two men who stood very close to the drummers. The 
bearers remained immovable except for the occasional changing of 
the coffin pole from one shoulder to another. At intervals women 
came out from the group to dance near the coffin, one, two, or three 
at a time. One boy was particularly energetic in leaping in front of 
the corpse. When the performers had danced they returned to the 
crowd from which other persons immediately advanced. These 
detached and spontaneous performances each lasted about two 
minutes. 

After two hours the bearers of the coffin moved away, followed 
on one side by some of the men, on the other side by a few women. 
A large number of men and women remained behind with the 
drummers. The music and the solo dancing continued. The corpse 
was removed to a place about a hundred yards from the spot where 
the initial ceremonies had been performed. The bearers still held 
the coffin on their shoulders, while men and women seated themselves 
on each side of the bier. This part of the proceeding was solemn 
and there was little conversation, though tobacco-smoking continued 
among both men and women (Plate XLV, Fig. 1). 

A woman about forty-five years of age held a plate of corn meal 
in her hand while she stood close to the corpse and in line with 
the bier. She addressed the corpse very earnestly and paused 
intermittently for a reply. While speaking, the woman looked 
intently at the foremost of the bearers, who both stood immovable 
with their heads inclined forward and eyes directed to the ground. 

My interpreter (Ngonga) said that the woman addressing the 
corpse was the oldest sister of the father of the dead boy, and that 
she was asking the spirit of the dead boy why he died. Here 
Ngonga threw a side light on family relationships. 

The father of the dead boy was the son of Ngonga's mother's 
brother. The dead boy used to call Ngonga tate ("my father"); 
Ngonga called him omolange ("my child"). When the woman had 
addressed the corpse an old man took her place. He held up the 



Religion 267 

plate of meal and earnestly asked questions. Lukuma was the 
name of the father of the dead boy. The old man who addressed 
the corpse was the brother of Lukuma's mother. Ngonga explained 
that the woman addresses the corpse, "to giv.e him sense so that he 
will not be ashamed to tell all about it"; that is, about the manner 
of his death. The old man said to the corpse, "Etali ["today"] 
omolange ["my boy"] tu yongola ["we want"] oku ["you"] tu ["us"] 
sanjuisa ["make glad"] o tu ["to us"] sapuila ["tell"] muele ["indeed"] 
cost ["all"] ca ["that"] ku upa ["you take"] kilu lieve ["from earth"]. 

The pause which followed a question was intended to give the 
corpse time to reply. It is supposed that if the answer is in the 
negative the spirit causes the pole to swing slightly backward. An 
affirmative answer is given if the spirit makes the pole swing forward. 
The old man demanded, "Is it witchcraft that hates us and killed 
you? If it is witchcraft, come to the front." I could see no swing 
of the corpse on the pole, but Ngonga said that he could see the 
coffin swing backward to indicate a negative answer. I suspected 
that the interrogator of the corpse gave a signal to the bearers, 
indicating that the coffin was to be made to swing, but I could see 
no signal or movement of the coffin. While the corpse was inter- 
rogated, males among the spectators spoke to the old man who was 
asking the questions. Ngonga explained that these men were 
suggesting questions which might be asked respecting the cause of 
death. A witness in the crowd would say, "You have forgotten 
this," or "You have forgotten that." 

The next question was one that calls for a detailed explanation. 
Sambulu is a bad spirit which is able to cause death when crying 
women and children offend him by their wailing. The mother of the 
dead boy was a slave whose husband was absent from the village 
for a time. During this period the master of the woman threatened 
to sell her; consequently she went to a Christian mission with her 
children, one of whom was the boy now deceased. The woman and 
children were crying, hence the possibility that the evil Sambulu 
had at that time entered the person of the boy whose funeral rites 
were now in progress. The woman had visited the mission a year 
ago, but this lapse of time apparently made no difference to the 
possibility that Sambulu had entered one of the children. The spirit 
made a negative answer to this ingenious suggestion and eventually 
indicated that death was due to a "bad belly." If no answer is 
returned affirmatively, recourse is made to the medicine-man, who 
carries out divination. The details of this method are described 



268 The Ovimbundu 

later in explaining the meaning of the articles which are contained 
in the divination basket. 

I interrogated my interpreter respecting funeral customs, and 
from these inquiries elicited the following information. Burial of 
the corpse takes place a mile or more from the village in a grave 
dug by the father's sister's children. The depth of the grave is about 
six feet. Each village has its own burial ground. The woman who 
questioned the corpse carried a sleeping mat which would be used 
to spread on the bottom of the grave, though sometimes the mat is 
placed outside the grave on the mound of earth. Midway between 
Cuma and Caconda I photographed graves of the Ovimbundu 
(Plate XLVII, Figs. 1, 2). The articles on the graves were the poles 
used for carrying the coffin, a basket, broken gourds, and in one 
instance the horns of a bullock which was killed at the funeral feast. 
The horns were mounted at the top of an upright pole (Plate XLVI, 
Fig. 2). Ngonga said that the belongings of a well-to-do person 
would usually be broken and placed on the grave; the breaking is 
necessary in order to prevent theft. I could find no trace of the 
idea that property is broken so that its spirit will accompany the 
man to a world of spirits. 

The corpse was in a wooden box covered with a thin piece of 
blue and white chequered cloth tightly wound about the coffin. 
Ngonga explained that the body was prepared in the following 
manner before it was placed in the coffin. The corpse was extended 
in a supine position with the thumbs tied, the palms together, and 
the hands on the pubes. The great toes were tied together and 
the upper arms were bound to the torso with bands of bark or 
cloth. The use of bark no doubt represents the older method. 

At the funeral of a baby one of the grandmothers carries the 
dead child to the grave on her back. The ceremony of questioning 
the corpse is carried out if the child is old enough to walk and talk. 
Ngonga said, "If the dead child was old enough to talk they think 
he will say something." If the child was unable to talk, the parents, 
accompanied by their brothers and sisters, would visit the medicine- 
man to inquire the cause of death. 

There are a few special observances connected with the burial 
of twins. When the children were alive the mother had to shake 
a rattle or to blow a small horn instead of giving the usual greetings 
to a passer-by, and this she has to do at the funeral of one or both 
of her twins. 



Religion 269 

A mourning widow must leave her hair loose and undressed, and 
she has to wear a cloth which conceals her from crown to sole. 
For three days she is obliged to sleep close to the corpse of her 
husband with only a stick between them. The stick, which is about 
the length of the bed, is laid between the widow and the corpse. 
During this time she has no food, and her wailing is expected to 
be almost continuous day and night. When the corpse is tied and 
prepared for burial the widow says farewell to it. Relatives support 
the corpse and make it advance toward her, while she herself is 
held in the position of a bound corpse, and is supported by relatives 
who make her confront the dead body of her husband. The widow 
does not go to the funeral. 

Mourning continues after the funeral, with fasting and periodical 
wailing at three o'clock in the afternoon, and again twelve hours 
later. At the end of a month of mourning the widow lies for one 
night in the place where the corpse of her husband lay the night 
before burial. At the beer-drinking which marks the end of the 
period of mourning a medicine-man guides the hand of the widow 
as she dips a ladle into the beer pot and distributes the beverage. 

The widow may stay with her mother's brother or she may return 
to her parents, but she must not become the wife of another man 
until a year has elapsed. The second husband will make a present 
to the widow's parents or others who have taken her, but this gift 
will not be as valuable as if the groom were taking a virgin. 

Tree burial I have not seen, but heard of it near Ngalangi, and 
it has recently taken place at Cileso. Tree burial is the method for 
disposing of the corpse of a person who has died in debt. Any one 
who gives interment to a corpse assumes responsibility for the debts; 
hence tree burial is the most convenient way of disposal. 

An Ocimbundu from Bailundu said that in that district the 
child is taken from the womb of a woman who has died pregnant. 
Food is placed on the lips of the removed foetus so that it will not 
induce the death of other pregnant women. Near Ngalangi a 
pregnant woman would be buried with the point of a long stick on 
her abdomen, and after the grave had been filled a blow would be 
given to the top of the stick. 

The foregoing are the principal points of importance in the 
funeral rites of commoners. Ceremonies connected with the death 
and burial of medicine-men, kings, chiefs, and hunters require 
separate consideration. 



270 The Ovimbundu 

medicine-men 

When a medicine-man dies the people call in another medicine- 
man to take charge of the ceremonies. The corpse is tied in a sitting 
posture, which is the attitude for burial. His charms are attached 
to his body and in this position they remain in the grave. The 
head ornament osala, which may be feathers, quills of the porcupine, 
or hair from a goat's beard, is placed upright on the head and fastened 
by a band under the chin (Plate XXIII, Fig. 2). The corpse is kept 
in a seated position lashed to a stool for three days. There is no 
coffin. 

The corpse is carried in the posture described to the grave which 
is dug at a cross-path. The corpse of a medicine-man is questioned 
in the same manner as that employed in interrogating the corpse of 
a commoner. When the corpse is placed in its grave the medicine- 
men, some of them from a distance, dance because they have "spirit 
in their heads." The medicine-men shake their heads while dancing, 
and without pausing each eats a living chicken that he carries in 
his hand. At the side of the grave, a dog, a chicken, and a goat 
are killed. No part of the flesh is buried; it is consumed by those 
present at the funeral. 

A sleeping mat is placed in the grave, and on the mound of 
earth are placed horns filled with medicine, and skins which used 
to hang from the waist of the medicine-man when he was performing. 
The rain-making charms are not buried in the grave, because their 
interment would cause the rainfall to diminish; the charms may, 
however, be placed on the outside of the grave. No food is placed 
in or on the grave. The mound of earth is painted with a human 
male figure. When a new medicine-man is making medicine or 
performing ceremonies he uses the name of a deceased medicine-man. 

It is thought that the dead medicine-man has spirits which he 
is able to send to earth. No images of the medicine-man are made. 
Medicine-men visit the grave at night in order to take parts of the 
corpse to include in their medicine. At Caconda in western Angola 
I obtained the outfit of a medicine-man who included in his equip- 
ment two small hoe blades which he used for disinterring the dead. 
There was a portion of human tibia in the basket and a round 
stone pounder for pulverizing bone along with other ingredients. 

The funeral rites of a medicine-woman are the same as those of 
a medicine-man except that medicine-women carry the corpse. An 
osoma ("king") or a sekulu ("chief") will visit the grave of a medicine- 
man to ask for rain or other favors. 



Religion 271 

kings and chiefs 

A chief (village headman) is buried in a specially constructed en- 
closure in the village over which he ruled (Plate XLV, Fig. 2). 
The mausoleum is a small hut with a substantial wooden door which 
is surrounded by a strongly built wooden fence ten feet high. 

I was taken inside a tomb in the capital of Ngalangi, where the 
king showed the interior of his burial place of kings. There were 
four mounds of earth, each of which covered the body of a king, 
and a little distance away were the graves of the principal wives. 
The hut contained pottery and gourds; also a small fire, which 
is replenished by an attendant who must not allow it to be 
extinguished. 

Ngonga says that the burial chamber at Elende contains the 
head of the chief in a box. After one year from the time of burial 
the box containing the head is opened in order that a libation of 
beer may be poured over it. Sometimes the head is anointed with 
palm oil and a new band of cloth is added. These attentions are 
paid to the head in time of sickness and drought. If the head shows 
signs of desiccation an ox is killed in order to provide a new piece 
of skin in which the head is sewn. The tomb is visited by men 
who come to ask for good fortune when they are departing for a 
journey to the interior, and these supplicants are led to the tomb 
by the ruling chief. Near the burial place of the sekulu ("village 
headman") at Elende there was the house of bows (Plate XLVI, 
Fig. 1), which is typical of several seen in different parts of Angola. 
These repositories always contain staffs, bows, arrows, sleeping 
mats, and possibly other articles which belonged to the dead. 

The corpse of a king is suspended from the top of the burial hut 
by a rope which is tightly fastened round his neck. That the king 
has died is not admitted and the announcement states that "the 
king has a cold in his head." The head of a specially selected family 
twists the rope until the head is severed. The twisting is carried 
out gradually, a little each day, so that a week or more is required 
for severance. In former times the head was detached by twisting 
only, but at present a knife is used to hasten the friction of the 
rope. When the body of the king has fallen into the basket placed 
underneath to receive it, the people may say that the king is dead 
and mourning begins. 

Judging by the arrangement seen at the ombala of Ngalangi the 
bodies are buried in a hut constructed as a burial place for kings, 
but Ngonga states that the older method was cave burial. The body 



272 The Ovimbundu 

of a dead king would in former times be taken at night by chiefs 
and interred in one of the caves which are numerous in the rugged 
hills of the Benguela Highlands. The burial posture for a king 
is the same as that described for a medicine-man. The severed head 
is eventually kept in a box, but primarily both head and body are 
buried, though in separate places. At the end of a year the head 
is dug up and transferred to its casket. 

Mourning for a king lasts for seven days, during which his children 
and wives wear strips of oxhide on their left wrists. The village 
chiefs gather to choose a king from the "blood of kings," though 
"sometimes a bad man will make himself king without waiting to 
be chosen." The choice should be in favor of the oldest son of the 
chief wife, "but if she has stupid sons, a son of another wife of 
the king will be chosen." 

Sometimes during drought chiefs and their wives go to the grave 
of a chief where they say, "If you are angry tell us what you want. 
If you want an ox we will kill one." If they visit the tomb of a king, 
the king's corpse is asked, "Do you want a new box for your head? 
We will make one." The oldest chief takes from the tomb the box 
which contains the head. This is slung on a pole supported on the 
shoulders of two boys. The head is then questioned in the way 
described for the funeral of a commoner. The oldest chief offers a 
sacrifice, if such procedure is demanded by a forward swing of the 
pole which supports the casket containing the king's head. 

The house is not burned after a death has occurred within, but it 
is still customary to take down the surrounding fence and to build 
a new one. The house in which death took place is then used as 
before. I was informed at the capital of Ngalangi, and by the king 
himself, that he must continue to use the house of former kings 
until the structure collapses. No repair work may be done; con- 
sequently the house was in a dilapidated condition. Some months 
after receiving this account at Elende I was in Moxico, several 
hundred miles away, and learned that at Cangamba the custom of 
severing the head of a king by suspension and friction prevails in 
the manner described above. 

HUNTERS 

While traveling in the district of Ganda, likewise in the Vasele 
country in the hinterland of Novo Redondo, one cannot fail to 
notice the presence of rock tombs (ombilia or osonje) which are 
mausoleums of hunters. These are invariably placed in commanding 



Religion 273 

positions on domes of rock. The first tomb examined was in Ganda 
(Plate LXXIV, Fig. 1). This tomb is carefully built up from pieces 
of granite detached from the rocks which serve as a base. Horns 
of animals are placed on the cairn which is further decorated by a 
stick bearing the tail of an animal. Plate XXXII, Fig. 1, shows 
a tomb of similar structure in the country of the Vasele. From one 
such tomb it was possible to detach a slab so that the interior could 
be seen. There were two male skeletons; one lay supine while the 
bones of the other were in disorder. 

In a hunter's house of bows there are implements of deceased 
hunters, whose ceremonies centering in these relics have been 
described under the heading of hunting. 

Training of Medicine-men 

Training for the position of male or female magician (ocimbanda) 
is not carried out with formality ending in initiatory rites, neither 
is the position hereditary; but the boy or girl who wishes to become 
an ocimbanda must have "spirit in the head." This choice of children 
of peculiar neurotic temperament for the positions of medicine-men 
and medicine-women is widely distributed, as I have shown in 
some detail (Origins of Education, 1926, pp. 256-259). 

Among the Ovimbundu there does not appear to be an inten- 
sifying of natural psychoses by seclusion, starvation, or beating. 
When a boy is sick, the medicine-man says, "You have a spirit 
who wants you to be ocimbanda." The medicine-man kills a dog, 
a goat, and four chickens, then the boy has to accompany his master, 
carrying his apparatus and obeying him in every way. The medicine- 
man says, "Your father was an ocimbanda and the spirit wants you." 
The female ocimbanda is called cambula by other women, and her 
services are preferred to those of the male ocimbanda in cases of 
difficult childbirth. 

In Ngalangi I was informed that the Ovimbundu have great 
faith in the medicine-men of the Vangangella, a name vaguely 
applied by the Ovimbundu to several tribes of east-central Angola. 
An Ocimbundu will make a journey of several days in order to 
visit a distant medicine-man of another tribe. 

Functions of Medicine-men 

Magical practices are of two kinds, social and anti-social. The 

man who carries out divination, rain-making, healing the sick, and 

many other functions is ocimbanda, while the secret worker of evil, 

the witch or wizard, is onganga. In one village there may be several 



274 The Ovimbundu 

men and women each of whom receives the name ocimbanda, and 
specialization in some particular form of magical practice is the 
rule. Some practitioners are more highly esteemed than others. 
For example, an ocimbanda who has the reputation for curing dizzi- 
ness, madness, and onyalai (p. 281) is one of great repute; so also 
is the man who can cure a case of blood in the urine (biliosa). 
This is the Portuguese term commonly applied to blackwater fever. 

DIVINATION 

An examination of objects collected gives the best indication of 
the equipment of the ocimbanda, and among these no item is more 
important than the small divination basket containing a hetero- 
geneous collection of objects. 

A diviner receives the distinguishing title of ocimbanda congomba, 
and a description of his methods explains his belief in the activities 
of spirits. He shakes the basket while his assistant plays a small 
friction drum; then he inspects the objects lying at the top. 

A figure with beads on its neck indicates that trouble is due to 
the ghost of a dead baby whose spirit wishes to come back. 

A piece of gourd with a round orifice means that some one has 
been talking too much. The orifice represents a human mouth. 

Two figures, male and female, whispering together, indicate 
that a husband and wife are making a plan to poison somebody. 

The figure of a female with a large abdomen indicates that the 
spirit of a deceased pregnant woman is causing sickness in the village. 

The horn with shells on it indicates that the woman who is con- 
sulting the diviner will not bear children. 

There is a little figure with a black tuft on its head, whose 
arrival at the top of the basket indicates that misfortune among the 
natives is caused by Europeans. When talking to this figure the 
medicine-man tries to speak like a white man by adopting a falsetto 
voice and mimicking the intonation of Europeans. 

The figure with a little crest on its head is an indication of 
sickness or other trouble arising from a spirit which likes to drink 
blood. When this figure comes to the top of the basket, the medicine- 
man induces the blood-drinking spirit to enter a man, because the evil 
must first be localized before it can be exorcised. This possessed 
person dances with a small ax or a hair switch in his hand. When 
dancing has induced a frenzy, the dancer kills a pig and drinks the 
fresh blood. The blood-drinking spirit is in this way exorcised 
from the community. 



Religion 275 

If the figure with united legs comes to the top of the basket 
the meaning is that a medicine-man used to be in the family of the 
consultant. The spirit of this medicine-man wishes some member 
of the family to become a medicine-man. 

The little wooden snake signifies cords and binding. Dream- 
ing of a snake indicates that the dreamer will be tied and sold into 
slavery. When the wooden snake comes to the top of the basket, 
the significance is that a spirit has tied the sick person who is con- 
sulting the diviner. 

If the wooden figure of a girl appears at the top of the basket, 
the inference is that the spirit causing trouble is that of a girl. 

The appearance of a thin wooden figure at the top of the basket 
means that the troublesome spirit is that of a person who died 
when away on a long and fatiguing journey. The afflicted person 
who is consulting ocimbanda has to make an offering to one of the 
wooden human figures which are to be found along trade routes. 

The piece of iron in the basket may come to the top when the 
contents are shaken. When this happens it is assumed that a death 
will take place. The death is attributed to something, for example, 
alcohol, which has come from white people. 

The piece of horn from the hoof of an ox indicates that a trouble- 
some spirit desires an ox to be sacrificed. If a sick man is consulting 
the diviner, he is told to take a drink containing parings from the 
hoof of an ox. 

The bone from a chicken's leg indicates that sickness has come 
from the road, that is, from a journey. The Ovimbundu have been 
famous for their long journeys across Africa, hence the implication 
seems to be that a disease of an infectious kind has been brought 
from a distance. 

A corncob indicates that trouble has arisen from a spirit which 
can affect the growth of corn if not appeased by sacrifice. 

A coin indicates that the sick or deceased person was too fond of 
money; misfortune has come from the spirit who gives wealth and 
good luck, because it has been offended in some way. 

There is in the basket a white bone which means that there 
will be laughter in the village. 

The small cocoon of sticks, which I think belongs to a caddis 
fly, means that some one has stolen a bale of cloth. 

Small round shells indicate that everything is well. 

A small wooden boat indicates that some one will be drowned. 



276 The Ovimbundu 

The handle of a hoe is the symbol of cultivation. The appearance 
of the miniature handle at the top of the basket implies that the 
spirit of a woman who was rich in corn is troubling the community. 

Two united, human figures of wood indicate that a twin will 
die. The Ovimbundu welcome twins; when one is dead the mother 
has a wooden figure (Plate XXI, Fig. 1) made to take its place; 
this is nursed to induce another conception and to comfort the 
remaining child. 

The little gourd means that a deceased person was secretly 
poisoned in revenge because of his thefts from a field. 

The seed of the oil palm means that a large gourd of palm oil 
has been stolen. 

The description of funeral rites gave an account of the question- 
ing of the spirit of the deceased. If no answer is given, divination 
is made to learn the cause of death. 

There is no divination by examination of entrails. Bones are 
thrown in playing a game, but this is not connected with divination. 

EQUIPMENT AND MISCELLANEOUS DUTIES 

The basket of an Ocimbundu medicine-man at Caconda con- 
tained, in addition to the human bone, pounder, and hoe blades 
already mentioned, two carved wooden female figures whose specific 
use is unknown. It is known, however, that such figures may be 
nursed and held to the breast of a woman who wishes to conceive. 
There was a cowrie shell on a cord which forms a charm to be worn 
round the neck of a woman who desires children. A small tin box 
containing a coin and some stones was used for shaking. The kind 
of sound produced, also any arrested movement of the objects in 
the box, are indications of the guilt of a person whose name was 
mentioned just as the objects ceased to move. 

A large antelope horn, filled with a mixture of goat's fat and 
charcoal from the bones of a goat, was intended for use in curing the 
sick. The contents of the horn become liquid when heated; then 
they can be dropped on the heads of the people who come for 
treatment. It was explained that a number of sick people sat around 
the medicine-man who walked to each person and poured out a 
small quantity of medicine on the patient's head. 

The only musical instruments used by a medicine-man are a 
small friction drum and a rattle. At Ngalangi I saw a medicine- 
man give a dance during which he slashed about him with a small 
ax, which was evidently a ceremonial object, since the construction 



Religion 277 

was too light to make it effective as a tool or weapon (Plate XIII, 
Fig. 4). At Bailundu I was informed that an ax of this kind is used 
in a medicine-man's dance which is intended to cure a man who is 
sick because a spirit has entered into him. The sickness may have 
occurred because the man has broken a promise. 

The medicine-man, or sometimes the patient himself, dances 
violently, meanwhile cutting about him with the ax (omutaka), 
which is finally used for killing a little pig whose blood is drunk by 
the sick man. This is the ritual that was previously mentioned in 
describing divination. 

The following are important ceremonial objects: The ax ekuva 
(Plate XIII, Fig. 5) was the one used for killing slaves who were 
eaten at the death of a king. This object was secured in the Vasele 
country near Vila Nova de Selles. It is of handsome appearance, 
having a copper circle inlaid into the iron blade. A spear from 
Bailundu is likewise important because of its use in ritual (Plate 
XIII, Fig. 8). Before war and hunting this spear was thrust first 
into an ox then into a slave. The human and animal flesh were 
cooked together and eaten from the same pot. The female figure 
used by the medicine-man for consultation with regard to the correct 
path for a caravan has been described. A carved wooden post 
obtained from Bailundu was set up at cross-paths so that it might 
be visited by a sick person or his representative who would make 
sacrifice there. 

Without parallel among ceremonial objects used by the Ovim- 
bundu is a small wooden cloth-covered box from Bailundu. This 
contains a piece of root of cylindrical form tightly bound with cloth 
having at one end a cowrie shell. The box is the shrine of Kandundu, 
for whom a small hut is built in order to contain the box. Any one 
who sees the contents of the shrine is said to become blind. Kandundu 
is believed to be the "spirit of dreaming who makes swellings come 
on the body." 

Antelope horns are in general use as containers of magical potions. 
One horn from Bailundu is used for holding sweet beer which is drunk 
by a person afflicted by bad dreams. A large horn with a piece of 
fur attached, also from Bailundu, is named ocindiko. The horn 
contains a mixture of fat and charcoal which is heated near camp 
after sunset, when men are on the march. The spreading fumes 
keep away lions and thieves. It was said that a thief is deterred 
because the fumes make him cough. 



278 The Ovimbundu 

The charm osonge or ombuiyu is in the form of small neckbands 
of plaited fiber to which two or three cowrie shells are fastened. 
It is worn by women who wish to induce conception. A neckband 
of this kind which was worn by the maternal grandmother is thought 
to be specially effective. Sometimes a small rattle, formed from 
seed pods attached to a stick, is tied to the neckband. The rattle 
is shaken when the mother of twins meets a friend to whom she 
is not allowed to give the ordinary greeting. 

A tortoise shell containing fat and charcoal is worn by the mother 
of a child who is afflicted by the spirit of Kandundu, which may 
cause the baby to have skin eruptions or a very small amount of 
hair. In order to cure her child, the mother must eat small quantities 
of the contents of the shell from time to time. In some sympathetic 
way the medicinal benefits are transferred to the infant. 

When dancing, the medicine-man usually wears a goat's beard 
attached to a circular piece of basketry. This osala is sometimes 
fastened on the top of his head. In place of the ax already mentioned 
he may flourish a small ceremonial hoe or whisk, or a wooden baton 
with a tuft of hair at the end. 

Among the varied duties of the medicine-man is that of washing 
the body of a king (osoma) or a chief (sekulu). To water in a pot, 
the medicine-man adds some of the blood of a freshly killed chicken. 
Then in a hut specially reserved for the purpose he performs the 
ceremonial ablution. 

At Cangamba an Ocivokue performed a ceremony which was 
supposed to make a thief return to the village for trial. The 
medicine-man sat on his haunches, holding in one hand a small 
rattle and in the other a slender stick on which the decorated carapace 
of a tortoise was poised (Plate LXXXII, Fig. 1). Very earnestly 
the man talked, shook his head, and gazed at the tortoise shell 
which began to twist on its pivot. As the medicine-man muttered 
and shook his rattle, the movement of the shell grew faster. Pres- 
ently the rotation of the tortoise shell was reversed, but so adroitly 
that I could not follow the movement or imitate it when allowed 
to try. The reversed movement of the carapace on its pivot represents 
the culprit turning back to his village. 

CURING THE SICK 

At Cangamba a female ocimbanda was seen painting marks of 
red and white on the face of a sick woman. The ceremony was 
called ovihamba and its object was said to be the relief of rheumatism, 



Religion 279 

of which there are several named varieties. Painting of women has 
previously been mentioned in describing ceremonies associated 
with pregnancy. 

Several distinct performances for curing the sick were observed 
at Cangamba, which is a center of the Vachokue tribe, though 
a few people of the Ovimbundu and many Luchazi and Babunda 
mingle at this place. 

In the first instance the sick woman knelt in front of a hut two 
feet high which contained a clay leopard marked with white spots. 
The medicine-man dipped a bunch of leaves in water and stroked 
this along the patient's spine from the neck to the sacrum. 

The second performance was more elaborate, and detailed 
preparations were made outside the hut of the medicine-man (Plate 
LXXXIII, Fig. 2). A screen of posts and boughs was erected, and 
on one side of this two male drummers stood, each with a long 
tubular drum before him. On the other side of the fence were three 
wooden posts, each two feet high, circular in cross section, and painted, 
as indicated in the illustration. Near the posts was a basket, so 
closely woven that it contained water in which green twigs and 
leaves were soaking. The drums began to beat and a group of 
women clapped hands in rhythm. 

The patient knelt before the small painted wooden posts close 
to the basket of water, into which she dipped her face from time to 
time. While the drum music and hand-clapping continued, the 
medicine-man took wet twigs from the basket. He drew these 
very slowly along the spine of the patient from neck to sacrum, 
as if painting with a brush. The patient occasionally shivered 
from head to foot; then remained still, except for the dipping of 
her face in the water, until the next paroxysm shook her. This 
routine continued for ten minutes. The medicine-man then knelt 
by the woman, dug a small hole in the ground, and pulled up one 
of the painted wooden posts which he placed in the patient's hands. 
The medicine-man kept his hands over those of the patient while 
she transferred the painted post to the new hole that he had pre- 
pared. Finally the basket containing the water and leaves was 
buried thirty feet from the scene of operations. 

A similar ceremony was witnessed near this site. In this instance, 
however, the water was obtained from a boat-shaped receptacle 
mounted on two Y-shaped posts, at a height of three feet from the 
ground (Plate LXXXIII, Fig. 1). Outside the hut of the medicine- 



280 The Ovimbundu 

man, and fastened to the wall, was a strip of bark cloth painted with 
white circles. These recorded the number of times the patient 
came for treatment. 

At Ngalangi there was no difficulty in obtaining information 
respecting plants used medicinally. Each of three medicine-men 
returned with a number of roots and stems which they readily 
described. Okakamba and okapelangalo are roots that cure "big 
head." This disease, which is rare in white people, begins with 
blood blisters in the mouth; these may spread to the intestines and 
cause death. Okayenje is a root that induces vomiting; it is also 
a purgative to free a patient from worms. Olutikitiki is given to 
a woman soon after her baby is born. Kalungdumona is a plant 
having a purple flower. If the root is pounded and drunk in water 
it acts as an aperient. Okumbiasoko, when pounded and placed on 
the fire, restores a person after fainting; the head of the patient is 
held in the smoke. To a violent maniac the root usonge is given, 
pounded in water and mixed with maize beer. At Ngalangi a 
man who had been subject to homicidal mania was sitting on the 
ground quietly with his hands tied behind his back. I was informed 
that usonge was making him better. Ocinyeni is a bark that is chewed 
to remedy stomachache. Kosamba is a plant used to cure people 
who fall into the fire; it is also a remedy for toothache. The action 
of this drug kosamba causes vomiting and evacuation. 

Cilendaluka is pounded in water and smeared on the patient's 
body as a treatment following the internal application of kosamba. 
Mbundakataka is a root that is pounded and applied externally to 
cure sores on the lips. 

In addition to the plants just mentioned the following are 
important: 

Ocimbinga. This plant, whose name means "the big horn," is probably 

Strophanthus. It is used in the treatment of worms and chest colds. 
Ocipumbulu. This is a trailing herb whose leaves when pulverized are said 

to be a cure for bad sores. 
Ocindiambala and oluavava. These are used to give to women who are suffer- 
ing in difficult delivery. Ongolo sometimes takes the place of these drugs. 
The bark of ongolo is pounded in boiling water which is contained in a basin 
over which the woman sits. Use of the bark in this way is a protection 
against injuries resulting from childbirth. 
Omondolua. This is good for headaches and whooping cough. The roots 

are boiled and mixed with sweet beer. 
Okalolula-lohala. This is said to be used in cases of dysentery. At Elende 

it is used for curing skin diseases. 
Ohaile. This is used in cases of snake bite, swellings, and stings. 

In connection with the foregoing study of the native pharmacopoeia 
it will be of interest to consider some maladies to which the Ovim- 



Religion 281 

bundu are subject. Information relating to these points was given 
by Dr. Hollenbeck of the Mission Station at Elende. 

Of intestinal worms there are many kinds. Hookworm is of 
somewhat common occurrence. Ascaris, an intestinal worm several 
inches long, is extremely common. Infection may arise from the soil, 
also from the use of dirty cooking utensils. The disease trichinosis, 
which arises from the activities of the parasite trichina, is rare. 
Tapeworm is frequent because much of the pork and beef is infected. 
Oxyuris, a small round worm about half an inch long, is common. 
Bilharzia is fairly prevalent. 

Malaria is so usual that almost every one suffers at some period. 
Every baby has malaria within the first two years of its life. Malaria 
is not followed by blackwater fever, but possibly by onyalai, which 
is known at Elende. The symptoms are the appearance of blood- 
blisters on the tongue. These spread to the throat and intestines, 
possibly with fatal results. This disease, which does not attack 
white people, is local. 

There is no sleeping sickness at Elende, but the disease occurs 
at Katombela, at some points on the Kwanza, also near the mouth 
of the Congo. There are at Elende cases of elephantiasis due to 
the activities of a filaria which affects the lymphatic glands. Infan- 
tile paralysis occurs. 

Leprosy is fairly common; the nervous form is more usual than 
the nodular. There are instances of yaws, a disease somewhat 
resembling syphilis inasmuch as the disease is communicated by 
a spirochaete, but yaws is not communicated by sexual infection. 
Venereal disease is not common at Elende. 

The pulmonary form of tuberculosis occurs, but is not usual 
at Elende. There are places in the Benguela Highlands where the 
disease is increasing. Both whooping cough and measles are well 
known, but there is no scarlet fever or diphtheria. Chickenpox and 
smallpox are both known to occur, the latter in epidemic form from 
time to time. There is occasional dysentery, but no typhoid. 

Hernia in its inguinal form is common. Umbilical hernia, due 
to lack of skilled attention at birth, is frequent, but with advancing 
age this defect is often rectified, or at least greatly modified. There 
are cases of injury to women at childbirth; for example, vesical- 
vaginal fistula. Blindness is fairly common as a result of the neglect 
of inflammation of the conjunctiva. Babies suffer from corneal 
ulcers, which sometimes result in total blindness. Cataract is 
fairly common in both its senile and juvenile forms. 



282 The Ovimbundu 

Deformities resulting from burns are frequent. Cooking pots 
are unstably placed on logs which form the fire, and, in addition 
to this, people sleep very near the fire. There is no cerebro-spinal 
fever. Pneumonia is very common; the result is often fatal. Weak- 
ness of the heart is only occasional. Varicose veins are rare. There 
is no appendicitis. 

One cannot fail to notice the prevalence of tropical ulcers among 
the Ovimbundu. These occur most frequently on the tibia. The 
big sloughing ulcer makes a large hole which the native fills with 
clay and a pulp of leaves. Sometimes a bark is pounded to a pulp 
and used in this way. These ulcers are very obstinate even under 
skilled treatment. Often after the wound has been healed it will 
break out again when irritated by the slightest injury. Medical 
opinion is divided as to the cause of these ulcers. Jiggers are a cause 
of deformation of the toes, which sometimes fall off or have to be 
amputated. Cancer is not usual in people under sixty years of age. 
Superficial cancer is the most common form. 

Water, even when procurable, is sparingly used by the Ovim- 
bundu. The hands and face may receive a perfunctory wash each 
day, but the entire body seldom receives this attention. 

Cupping was observed on two occasions, but I think the opera- 
tions were performed by the mothers of the children concerned, and 
not by a medicine-man. The method of using the horns or gourds 
is illustrated (Plate LXXXVI, Fig. 1). After incisions had been 
made the cups were applied. The operator sucked the pointed end 
of the cup, so creating a vacuum, which was maintained by pushing 
forward with the tip of the tongue a small ball of wax. This wax 
filled the hole at the pointed end of the cupping horn. The people 
shown in the photograph are Vachokue, but the method is the same 
among the Ovimbundu. 

At Elende there was a sweat bath in the form of a hole in the 
ground containing a heap of stones. The stones are heated in a 
fire, then cold water is thrown over them so that steam arises to 
the patient, who crouches above the hole covered with a blanket. 

In the Vasele country, also among the Ovimbundu at Elende, 
I examined corporeal incisions other than tribal marks. The explana- 
tion was to the effect that the making of cuts cured pain (Plates 
XXIV, Fig. 3; LXXVI, Fig. 2). 

RAIN-MAKING 

The rain-maker (upuli) is a medicine-man who has specialized 
in this function. The upuli, who was an Ocivokue of Ngongo, and 



Religion 283 

not an Ocimbundu, was dressed in only a skirt of cloth, and his 
equipment consisted of a reed whistle and a hair switch made from a 
cow's tail. 

The dance was a slow revolution without any violent leaping. 
The man held his arms upward, fully extended, and went through 
the motions of drawing rain from above; then he made slow arm 
movements suggestive of spreading the rain all around. At times 
he stood quite still and gave a shrill whistle. The hair switch was 
constantly twirled and flourished. 

POISON ORDEAL 

Evidence presented in chapters VI and VII will show that the 
poison ordeal is a widely spread Negro trait, and that administra- 
tion of the ordeal is connected with legal proceedings during which 
the poison cup is usually given to the suspects or litigants by a 
medicine-man. 

This ordeal as practised among the Ovimbundu and other people 
of Angola is in conformity with the general Negro procedure. 
Ngonga thinks that the poison ordeal of the old type is still practised 
secretly. According to the old law the poison cup affected an innocent 
man by making him vomit, while the guilty person succumbed. 

Ngonga states that a form of poison ordeal which exists today 
is as follows: The medicine-man holds out two potatoes, one of which 
is poisoned while the other is innocuous. The poisoned man does 
not die but he becomes so ill that he confesses his guilt. This use 
of potatoes has been fully described in connection with legal procedure 
(chapter VI). 

The guilt or innocence of suspects is tested by giving poison to 
chickens brought to the medicine-man by the accused men. He 
whose chicken dies is the guilty person. 

CEREMONIAL FIRE 

New fire is made during epidemic sickness, at the accession of 
a king, and at the building of a new village. On such occasions 
the twirling method is employed. The fire made is called ondalu, 
which is the ordinary word for fire. 

When an epidemic of sickness occurs the chief of the village 
takes a present of eight yards of cloth to the medicine-man and 
asks the cause of the visitation. The medicine-man replies, "Your 
fire is dirty and worn out, you must have new fire." 



284 The Ovimbundu 

The village chief takes this news to the people, saying, "Tomorrow 
we must find a goat, a chicken, and a pig, so that we may kill them. 
Then we must make a new fire." The chief pays for these animals. 

Next day the medicine-man starts a fire by the twirling method, 
and as soon as the fire has been kindled he kills a fowl whose blood 
is allowed to drop on the fire and the wood near-by. The sacrificial 
goat and pig are treated in the same way. Sometimes a boy who is 
learning to be a medicine-man kills these animals. Meat from each 
of the animals so sacrificed is cooked on this newly made fire, care 
being taken that each kind of meat is kept in a separate pot. There 
is no special pottery for this cooking. When the meat is cooked 
it is tasted by a girl from twelve to fourteen years of age who hands a 
portion to the chief, who distributes the meat among the village 
elders (olosekulu). The meat from the chicken, which must be fat, 
is the first to be distributed. A cock or a hen may be chosen, but 
if the latter is selected it must be utenda; that is to say, it must 
not have arrived at the egg-laying age. 

Finally there is a distribution of meat among the villagers who 
have been present throughout the ceremony. The chief speaks, 
saying, "We wish good fortune to the new fire." Each person has 
to take the responsibility for quenching his own fire before the 
new one is ceremonially made. After the feast each father of a 
"restricted" family takes away a portion of the newly kindled fire. 

There is sometimes a ceremonial purification of the village water 
supply. Water is carried in a block of wood from the nearest stream, 
and to this water a few drops of blood from the sacrificed animals 
are added. The idea involved throughout is the renewal of health 
by the furnishing of new, unadulterated supplies of fire and water. 

At the inaugural ceremony of a new king a similar proceeding 
is followed. A chicken is killed for the purpose of supplying blood 
to sprinkle the new fire and on this occasion there is a ceremonial 
hunt. The king may or may not join the males of the hunting party ; 
sometimes he sends a substitute. 

A girl follows the king or his substitute carrying a basket (ongalo) 
in which round fruits from the tree olosangu are contained. Each 
of the fruits is wrapped round with the skin of the large lizard 
(etatu). The object of the hunt is to kill a male antelope, the duiker 
(ombambi), and a hare (pndimba) which may be male or female. 
The hare is not called ondimba on this occasion, but receives the 
name for elephant (onjamba). 



Religion 285 

The hare is not carried over the shoulder, but has a ceremonial 
conveyance slung on poles (owanda) which are supported on the 
shoulders of two or even four men. 

Laying the evil of a village on a goat, which is then driven out 
to die, is an Umbundu custom. The scapegoat ceremony has a 
cleansing function similar in purpose to the rekindling of fire for 
the community. Cavazzi pictured and described the scapegoat 
ceremony in the seventeenth century, and Ngonga informed me 
that he saw the rite twenty years ago. 

Prohibitions and Omens 
There is a taboo against killing oka kuhu, which is the yellow- 
backed duiker. When Ngonga was sick he was forbidden to eat the 
flesh of the duiker (ombambi); neither is this flesh to be eaten by 
people who suffer from dizziness. In former days women were not 
allowed to eat eggs. The flesh of sheep and goats is said to be indi- 
gestible for children between the ages of three and six years. The 
flesh of the lion, leopard, and hyena is forbidden as food for the 
king, but other people may eat it. The king is in fact forbidden 
to eat the flesh of any animal which has paws; neither may he 
eat flesh of the bush buck. A medicine-man must not eat flesh of 
a dog except before a ceremony for curing the sick. The taboo against 
dog's flesh applies also to the diet of a king. 

A woman must not step over the legs of a male, neither must a 
man step over the legs of a woman; for to do so causes weakness 
of the knees. A man or woman may step over the legs of a child. 

Omens are numerous. It is unfortunate to see a snake holding 
a frog, and the person who observes this should go to the medicine- 
man at once. When going to a village to be tried by the chief it 
is bad to meet some one who is carrying a bark rope, as this indicates 
binding and punishment. If a person who is setting out from home 
meets a woman carrying corn meal or any other white substance, 
he or she must take a little of the meal, whiten the face, and all 
will be well. A fly in the mouth is a good sign, because the fly 
knows where meat is to be obtained and is trying to lead the way. 

A stranger visiting a village is pleased when a dog is the first 
animal to enter the guest house. Dogs are fed, so the entry of a dog 
is a sign that the visitor will receive food. On the contrary, the 
appearance of a goat is a bad omen, because goats are not fed ; they 
pick up a frugal living as best they can. Other prohibitions and 
omens have been mentioned in discussing the pregnancy of women. 



X. CULTURE CONTACTS 

The foregoing chapters have presented the main outlines of the 
tribal life of the Ovimbundu, with a brief reference to some factors 
in the cultures of Angolan tribes with whom the Ovimbundu are 
in close contact. But hitherto no attempt has been made to analyze 
the cultural contacts of the Ovimbundu outside Angola. 

The data recorded indicate that the tribal life of the Ovimbundu 
is not an independent growth in the Benguela Highlands. We have, 
therefore, a problem involving a detailed study of surrounding 
cultures. The most important of these are located in the Congo 
basin, Rhodesia, and South West Africa, and for this reason the 
present chapter is divided into three sections, each of which deals 
with one of these areas which are all contiguous to Angola. 

In analyzing these surrounding cultures for comparison with the 
tribal life of the Ovimbundu, the social patterns as a whole are con- 
sidered, and no attempt is made to construct a theory of derivations 
based on what might be a few fortuitous resemblances arising 
through convergence. Our study is aided by a knowledge of historical 
contacts and geographical contiguity of the areas compared. There- 
fore the method is not open to the objections that have been made 
justly against an assumption of cultural relationships between two 
widely separated regions, in which only a few artifacts or institutions 
have an alleged resemblance. 

Chapters X and XI are concerned with discussing the probable 
cultural relationships of the Ovimbundu, and a final chapter, 
"Cultural Processes," indicates the way in which historical events 
and geographical factors have contributed to the selection and 
welding of traits whose aggregate now constitutes the tribal life of 
the Ovimbundu. 

Congo Basin 

An examination of the cultural traits of the Congo basin is of 
particular importance, because of the known historical connection 
of the Ovimbundu with Congo tribes, before the former entered the 
Benguela Highlands. Such a survey is conveniently made by 
examining the culture of the Congo basin from the estuary along 
the course of the main river, then southward along the Kasai and 
its tributaries into the northeast of Angola. 

Despite minor differences the Congo area may be regarded as a 
region of considerable uniformity with regard to environment and 

286 

I 



Culture Contacts 287 

cultural factors. The transitions from the Congo basin to the 
Benguela Highlands are of a gradual kind with respect to climatic 
conditions, physical features, and culture. Therefore, there are no 
compelling conditions which caused the Ovimbundu suddenly to 
abandon traits already acquired before their southern migration. 

Nevertheless, several traits of Congo culture which must have 
been known to the Ovimbundu have disappeared from their tribal 
life, while other factors have been emphasized in importance because 
of a change in locality. The disappearance of traits and the welding 
of others is discussed in chapter XII. The present section is con- 
cerned with summarizing the points of resemblance and difference 
between the Congo culture and that of the Ovimbundu. 

The books of J. J. Monteiro mention several traits which are 
a link between cultures of the Congo and the Ovimbundu culture 
of the Benguela Highlands. The Mushicongos chip all their teeth 
to fine points (vol. I, p. 262), a practice which resembles that of the 
Umbundu-speaking Vasele. Monteiro describes the musical bow, 
the friction drum, and the rubbing of a grooved piece of wood with 
a stick (vol. I, pp. 139-141). All these musical devices are used today 
by the Ovimbundu far to the south of the areas described by this 
writer. When describing the Esele country which forms a cultural 
pocket of the Ovimbundu people, I have previously referred to 
Monteiro's mention of the extinguishing of old fires and the cere- 
monial creation of new ones at the death of a king (vol. II, p. 167) ; 
also the functioning of the poison ordeal with use of the bark of 
ErythropMaeum guineense (vol. I, p. 61). The former of these customs 
is carefully observed by the Ovimbundu at the present time, while 
the latter is practised furtively. 

A part of Angola that is frequently omitted is the Cabinda 
Enclave to the north of the Congo estuary. Overbergh describes 
this territory in "Les Mayombe"; the Mayombe are a forest people 
living near Boma. They use red tukula wood for bodily ornament. 
There are special names for the first- and second-born of twins 
(p. 217). Circumcision is practised (p. 233). The poison ordeal 
is used with the drug Kasa. There is a classificatory system of 
relationships (p. 259), but without sufficient detail for comparison 
with that of the Ovimbundu. The most artistic figurines, which 
are carved in wood or ivory, are sometimes filled with a mixture of 
clay and blood as "medicine" (p. 219). The Mayombe believe in 
the existence of a supreme being named Ngambi but they have 
no cult for him; there is, however, a very active belief in a world 



288 The Ovimbundu 

of invisible spirits who work through apparitions, cries, and dis- 
placement of objects (p. 307). All these traits are features of Um- 
bundu culture (see also "Etudes Bakongo," by R. P. J. van Wing). 

J. H. Weeks (V) describes a number of traits which are typical 
of Ovimbundu culture. Mat-making by sewing long reeds together 
is pictured (p. 88) in such a way as to identify the method with that 
of the Ovimbundu. The Bakongo use a stick for making sounds 
by rubbing on notched bamboo (p. 179). The Bakongo have the 
dumb-bell basket-work rattle (p. 250), and the bull-roarer as a 
plaything (p. 126). The friction drum is used (p. 131). There are 
circumcision lodges for boys, also bachelors' clubs near San Salvador. 
The function of the bachelors' club corresponds with that of the 
onjango, the council house of the Ovimbundu. The graves of hunters 
are specially cared for (p. 181). The poison ordeal nkasa is carried 
out with an infusion made from the bark of a tree; vomiting indicates 
innocence. Nzambi, as among the Ovimbundu, is a vaguely con- 
ceived, powerful spirit who receives little attention; there are no 
prayers and no sacrifices in his honor (p. 276). Descent is reckoned 
on the mother's side. There is a kinship system of classified rela- 
tionships; thus ntekolo means son's son, son's daughter, daughter's 
son, and daughter's daughter. Nkaka means mother's father, 
mother's mother, etc., in such a way as to show a parallel between 
nkaka and the kukululu class of the Ovimbundu. 

R. E. Dennett has mentioned several ethnological points which 
serve further to connect the Congo culture with that of the Ovim- 
bundu. Dennett's account deals with the Bavili, a branch of the 
Fjort of the Loango region to the north of the Congo estuary. The 
father and his brothers are lata, the grandchild class is batekulu 
(Umbundu onekulu) ; descent is matrilineal. A man must not marry 
the daughter of his father's brother or of his mother's sister, because 
such children are his brothers and sisters (p. 36). Girls are secluded 
at puberty in the "paint house," and the red coloring is beaten from 
them with switches (p. 38). The women I saw at Ngongo giving a 
demonstration of the decoration and dances of a secret society 
were elaborately painted from head to foot with alternate bands of 
red and white. The mother's brother may sell his sister's children 
to pay his debts (p. 41). Inheritance of property is in the female 
line, to the sons of the deceased man's sister. The heir to chieftain- 
ship is the eldest brother of the deceased, and the next in line of 
succession is a sister's son. The wife and children of the deceased 
are not entitled to any property (p. 46). The poison ordeal is given 



Culture Contacts 289 

with powdered bark administered by the medicine-man, and vomiting 
is a sign of innocence (p. 25). Nzambi, who is the supreme being 
from whom everything originated, corresponds to Suku and Kalunga 
of the Ovimbundu, for like these high beings he is remote and otiose. 

When inquiring into the ethnology of the Kasai valley, situated 
to the northeast of the Benguela Highlands, a large body of literature 
is available. Each book or article confirms cultural resemblances 
between the social pattern of the Ovimbundu and that of the Congo 
basin, but not all points of comparison are to be found together in 
the works of one writer. 

In an article on the "Ethnology of the South West Congo Free 
State" E. Torday and T. A. Joyce describe the use of manioc by 
the Bayanzi who scatter the flour on water, so making a paste. 
To eliminate the poisonous principle, bitter manioc is soaked in 
water for three days, after which it is peeled, dried, and pounded 
in wooden mortars (p. 138). Tukula wood, which is well known 
and widely used in Angola, yields a red powder that is employed 
for corporeal decoration by the Bapindi and the Bakuba (p. 147). 
The Vakuanyama of southern Angola use the powder mixed with 
fat as an unguent for their bodies and a dressing for leather clothing. 

The evidence of Torday and Joyce shows that children of the 
Bakwese owe obedience to their maternal uncle; for example, boys 
who wished to accompany Torday had to ask permission from this 
relative (p. 150). The practice of cupping, use of friction drums and 
the marimba, are found among the Bakwese, who test the guilt 
of an accused person by giving a poisonous concoction prepared 
from the bark of Erythrophlaeum guineense; innocence is proved 
by vomiting. 

Torday and Joyce (I) call attention to several traits which are 
common to the cultures of the Bambala and the Ovimbundu. Skin 
puncturing and the introducing of decayed rubber into the cuts 
are practised (p. 401); this is a common usage among Ovimbundu 
women. The poison ordeal is practised. Water-pipes for smoking 
tobacco are made from gourds. During agricultural operations hoe 
culture by women follows clearance of the ground by men. Women 
use a short iron-bladed hoe, and the result of their labor is the pro- 
duction of manioc, bananas, sweet potatoes, haricot beans, and 
peanuts (p. 405). 

Rats are shot with blunt wooden arrows. There are great com- 
munal hunts for large game. The grass is fired, and at the conclusion 



290 The Ovimbundu 

of the hunt horns and skulls are presented to the village fetish, 
a practice which is comparable to the mounting of skulls and horns 
outside the hut of an Umbundu hunter whose grave is later decorated 
with similar trophies. 

Among the Bambala a hunter's bow is buta (Umbundu uta, "a 
weapon"). Exchange of blood seals an alliance between chiefs. 
Kinship is reckoned chiefly in the female line and children belong 
to the eldest maternal uncle. Widows never inherit property; 
this passes to the eldest son of the eldest sister. The word for father 
is tata. Personal names may be changed at puberty or later at 
the pleasure of the owner (pp. 410-412). Poison for the ordeal is 
made from the bark of a tree imported from the mouth of the Kwilu 
River (p. 416). The name for the soul is mityima ("the heart," 
Umbundu utima). In all these points the Ovimbundu resemble 
the Bambala. 

Torday and Joyce have reported on the culture of the Bayaka 
(II). This tribe has the friction drum, but in a form rather different 
from that of Angola. The poison ordeal with the use of Erythro- 
phlaeum guineense is employed. Straw shelters are built over graves 
which are covered with broken pots. Ovimbundu graves of this 
kind were photographed near Caconda (Plate XLVII, Figs. 1, 2). 

The Basonge live near the Baluba close to the Lualaba River, 
and the report of C. van Overbergh has been consulted for informa- 
tion which shows cultural resemblances between the Basonge and 
the Ovimbundu. The Basonge use short ornamental clubs called 
by van Overbergh batons de promenade. Such clubs as these are 
one of the most artistic features in the wood-carving industry of 
the Ovimbundu. The clubs are too ornamental for use as missiles, 
and the name given by van Overbergh (plate I, fig. 13) is an appro- 
priate description. 

Hoe blades and the method of hafting are the same for the 
Basonge and the Ovimbundu. The wooden stools and gourd tobacco- 
pipes of the Basonge have forms well known to Umbundu wood- 
carvers. Manioc is the principal food of the Basonge (p. 125). 
Fire is made by twirling the point of a stick on a baseboard. Only 
rich chiefs have a few cattle, and the word for ox is ngombe (Um- 
bundu ongombe). 

I have examined the evidence of J. H. Weeks (III, IV) with 
regard to the Bangala (Im Bangala) of the southwest Congo region. 
The Bangala use the word nganga for "medicine-man," but for the 
Ovimbundu nganga is a witch, while ocimbanda is the legitimate 



Culture Contacts 291 

practitioner of healing and divination. If sickness visits a house 
of the Bangala the fire is extinguished and a new one is kindled. 
Women who have prepared a corpse for burial are purified by sitting 
in a circle of fires (p. 114). 

Manioc, of which there are several varieties, is the principal 
food, and the methods of agriculture agree well with those followed 
by the Ovimbundu, since beans, yams, maize, and peanuts are 
cultivated. Caterpillars are used as food. Milk is tabooed by 
all Bangala, who regard it with great abhorrence, though no reason 
is given. The best hunters among the Bangala are specialists who 
are prepared for the hunt by the medicine-man (p. 123). 

Fish are stupefied by poison of a vegetable kind which is scattered 
on the surface of the water (p. 127). The Bangala have the poison 
ordeal (p. 434). I have reported the use of the word ekandu by the 
Ovimbundu, who employ the term to denote any evil action which 
causes pain to others. If there is sickness in the family, the Baloki 
say, "There is an ekandu in the family" (Weeks, IV, p. 390), and 
the witch doctor removes this ekandu ceremonially. 

The Baloki use painted wooden posts which are placed near the 
houses of the sick so that the spirits of sickness may be driven into 
them; the spirits are then appeased with offerings of food and drink. 
From Bailundu I obtained a carved wooden post in the form of a 
human figure; this was set on a path near a village so that offerings 
might be made to the spirit within the post if an epidemic attacked 
the village (cf. Weeks, p. 390). 

The Umbundu game of shooting at a tuber has been described; 
apparently this amusement is like that of the Baloki game as 
described by Weeks (p. 405). Baloki youths cut the root of a plan- 
tain into the form of a wheel, and the players are then divided into 
two competing parties as among the Ovimbundu; but Baloki boys 
throw bamboo splinters at the wheel, they do not shoot arrows as 
do the Ovimbundu. Mancala is played (p. 414) as it is among the 
Ovimbundu, who call the game ocela; but I am not informed con- 
cerning the details of the game among the Baloki and Ovimbundu 
respectively. 

H. von Weissmann (II) indicates that his route lay up the Congo 
to the junction with the Kasai. He then turned up the Kasai and 
traveled through the country of the Bambala, the Bassongo, and 
the Bakuba; thence along the valley of the Sankuru. He gives 
his impressions of the Bih6an (Ovimbundu) caravans from Bihe" in 



292 The Ovimbundu 

the Benguela Highlands (p. 145). "They carry on the most shameful 
trade imaginable and undertake longer journeys than any other 
Negroes of the west coast. They exchange their prisoners for ivory 
among the Bakuba tribes." Weissmann journeyed among the 
Wawemba of northern Rhodesia where he noted the poison ordeal. 
He states that it was customary to settle a dispute between two 
persons by drinking a poisonous draft made from a bark, and the 
one who vomits is cleared of suspicion. Weissmann's accounts 
emphasize the importance of Umbundu contacts through the 
caravan trade. 

M. W. Hilton-Simpson, who accompanied Torday for a period, 
has noted several points of importance in the establishment of 
cultural resemblances between the Ovimbundu and tribes of the 
Kasai (pp. 225, 257, 259, 282). The Bambala play end-blown 
wooden flutes like those from Bailundu, but there is no evidence 
to show that the Ovimbundu play a nose flute as do the Bambala. 
The eating of dogs by the Bapende is a widely distributed cultural 
trait of the Congo, and the Ovimbundu follow this practice. Initiation 
masks pictured by Hilton-Simpson bear a resemblance to those of 
eastern Angola. The Batatela smoke hemp in a gourd water-pipe 
as do the Vachokue and some of the Ovimbundu. The short friction 
drum used by the Batatela is held under the arm. In the form of 
the drum and the method of holding there is resemblance to the 
Umbundu custom. The Batatela have the flat drum called ocingufu 
by the Ovimbundu (p. 52). Painting the exterior surfaces of walls 
of houses is a southern Congo custom followed by the Batatela. 
This practice has extended into Angola as far south as the Malange- 
Saurimo line, and even to the Bailundu-Huambo area, but south 
of the halfway line across Angola I do not recollect seeing houses 
with painted walls. 

In dealing with the evidence of culture contacts indicated by 
the text and illustrations of the "Annales Muse^e du Congo Beige," 
a condensed statement will call attention to the many identities 
between artifacts of the Ovimbundu and those of the southwest 
Congo. The following details, which are well illustrated in the 
"Annales Mus6e du Congo Beige," should be compared with Plates 
IX-XXII, showing similar objects made by the Ovimbundu. 

Series III, II, fasc. 1: Carved wooden staffs for chiefs closely 
resemble those used by chiefs among the Ovimbundu (p. 70). 

Carved wooden hair-combs are like those used by the Ovimbundu 
and the Vachokue (p. 82). 



Culture Contacts 293 

Initiation of boys who are isolated in the bush where there is 
ceremonial bathing and circumcision is a practice of eastern Angola 
(p. 81). 

The oval wooden masks worn by initiates are similar to those 
of eastern Angola (p. 84). 

The mancala board with twenty-eight holes, arranged four by 
seven, is of the form used at Ngalangi, central Angola (p. 86). 

The Babende use the friction drum (p. 87). 

Bashilele arrowheads are of Umbundu pattern (p. 98). 

Use of red tukula wood is common among the Bushongo (p. 165). 

The wood-carving of the Bakongo and the Bashilele resembles 
that of the Ovimbundu. Faces are oval or triangular, and eyes are 
represented by narrow oval slits so as to conform in style and balance 
with the general outline of the face (p. 200). 

Series III, II, fasc. 2, plates XXII, XXXI show reed mats 
made near Leopoldville. Such mats are made by Umbundu males, 
who call them esaisa. 

The flat drum (ocingufu of the Ovimbundu) is played by the 
Batatela. The Bahuana use the long narrow-necked flour sifter 
which is in common use among the Vachokue, though not among 
the Ovimbundu (plate VIII). 

Series III, I, fasc. 2, plate XLVIII, figs. 586-587; plate LIII, 
fig. 619; and III, plate XXXIII, fig. 470: The general style and 
pose of the figurines on these plates is exactly like the work of the 
Ovimbundu. Legs are short, knees are flexed, hands are clasped 
on the abdomen, and necks are elongated, while hair and cicatriza- 
tion are clearly shown. All these figures are the same in form and 
function as those used by the Ovimbundu. Plate XXII, figs. 342, 
354, 357, describes horns of antelope, also tortoise shells which are 
filled with medicine. The latter are provided with cords for suspen- 
sion round the neck. Batatela war clubs are of the form used by 
the Ovimbundu (p. 65). These resemblances between work of the 
Ovimbundu and tribes of the southwest Congo is further shown 
by reference to illustrations by H. Clouzot and A. Level (L'art 
negre, Paris, 1919). 

Series III, I, fasc. 1: Mural decorations on houses resemble the 
designs on houses of northern Angola (p. 6). 

The basket-work dumb-bell rattle is of the form used in eastern 
Angola (plate II, figs. 36-38). 

Plate VI, figs. 123 A and B, indicates that the flat drum of the 
Ovimbundu is of the exact form used in the Kasai and Sankuru 



294 The Ovimbundu 

region. Plate XVI, fig. 284, shows long wooden flutes like those 
of Umbundu pattern at Bailundu. Plate XIX, figs. 124 and 313, 
indicates that the musical bow with its gourd resonator is of the 
form used by the Ovimbundu. 

The ethnographical catalogue of the Rijks Museum of Leiden 
shows many objects of the southwest Congo which are identical 
with those used by the Ovimbundu. Plate 193 pictures the sansa 
and the marimba which are common to both regions. Plates 224, 
fig. 1, and 225, fig. 1, show tobacco-pipes and a mancala board of 
Ngalangi pattern. The mancala board from the Sankuru region 
has twenty-eight holes arranged seven by four. Plates 75, fig. 10, 
and 236, fig. 4, indicate that curved knives used by the Bangala 
are like those used by the Vasele of northeast Angola. Plate 227, 
fig. 2, shows that head-dresses for initiates closely resemble those 
worn by Vachokue boys at Cangamba, eastern Angola. 

This examination of the traits of Congo culture calls attention 
to numerous resemblances between the cultural pattern of the 
Congo region and that of the Ovimbundu of the present day. I 
think there is reason to accept the following factors of Umbundu 
life as a part of the Congo culture before the separation of the 
Umbundu-speaking peoples. The historical and geographical facts 
when considered in relation to the number of cultural identities 
fully support the thesis that the Ovimbundu are of the central 
African matrix of cultures. 

On the material side resemblances are close, as the following 
summary will show. The Ovimbundu cultivate maize from which 
beer is made; they have manioc, peanuts, yams, sweet potatoes, 
and beans. Methods of agriculture and preparation of foods are 
similar. The animals common to both regions are the sheep, goat, 
chicken, and dog. The difference is the rearing of cattle by the 
Ovimbundu, who have also concentrated on the cultivation of 
maize to an extent not possible in the more densely wooded areas 
of the Congo basin. The use of dogs' flesh as food is common in 
both areas. 

The musical instruments of the Ovimbundu are in keeping with 
Congo patterns in every way. Indeed, there exist few and only 
minor differences. Forms common to both areas are the ocisanji, 
a flat board with two rows of metal keys; dumb-bell basket rattles 
and gourd rattles; the friction drum; the marimba; wooden flutes; 
the flat drum ocingufu; the double iron gong; and the long tubular 
drum which is held between the performer's legs. Resemblances 



Culture Contacts 295 

of a definite kind are found in the game with rolling tubers; the use 
of red tukula wood for decorating the body; the insertion of burned 
rubber into scarifications; the gourd water-pipe for smoking tobacco 
and hemp; the dugout canoe; conical fishing baskets; and the use 
of narcotic poisons for fish. The wood-carving of the Ovimbundu 
is related not only in general style but in detail to that of the south- 
west Congo. 

Close resemblances in points of social organization and religious 
belief exist, but some of these identities are common not merely 
to tribes of the Congo basin and the Benguela Highlands; they 
form traits of a wider cultural basis, as will be shown. 

These resemblances have great weight in establishing relation- 
ship between a parent culture and the offshoot, because we are 
dealing with a large number of allied factors that have been welded 
into cultural patterns; the comparison does not depend on a few 
isolated resemblances of form. A point of identity in spiritual belief 
is the recognition of a supreme being, Suku, Nzambi, or Kalunga, 
a creator who is too far away to be concerned with the affairs of men. 
To him no sacrifice or appeal is made, since all attention is reserved 
for the ancestral spirits whose cult is connected with the use of 
wooden figurines, which are of similar pattern in the Congo basin 
and the Benguela Highlands. 

The soul is said to reside in the heart, and the words used for 
soul are almost the same. There are houses for sacred objects once 
the property of men of importance. Distinction is usually made 
between the nganga, a practitioner of witchcraft of an antisocial 
kind, and the legitimate medicine-man. Both cultures have the 
rain-maker. Ekandu is a word describing any action contrary to 
the moral standards. 

As a social factor there is the men's house where only males 
congregate for the evening meal brought by their women, and here 
the communal pipe is passed round. Government is the same, by 
kings of great power who delegate local affairs to village chiefs. The 
social structure of the Ovimbundu rested formerly on a system of 
alliances, warfare, and slavery similar to that of the Congo. A 
classificatory system of relationships and descent of property, not 
to a wife and children but to the maternal uncle or to children of 
the deceased man's sister, is similar for tribes of the Congo and 
the Ovimbundu. 

The prenuptial relationship of boys and girls, freedom of choice 
in marriage, and the giving of marriage tokens are of the same 



296 The Ovimbundu 

pattern. In principle, the puberty rites for boys and girls of eastern 
Angola are the same as those of the Congo region, and masks of 
eastern Angola resemble those used by the Bapindi of the south- 
west Congo. Cannibalism was a factor common to the Congo basin 
and the territory occupied by the Ovimbundu, who have practised 
ceremonial cannibalism within the memory of persons still alive. 

The foregoing summary, supported by preceding details, makes 
clear that a substantial part of Umbundu culture is definitely like 
that of the Congo basin. There can be no objection to the evidence 
as a possibly fortuitous series of vague resemblances, since the 
entire backgrounds are of the same pattern. The Ovimbundu have 
a tribal life which is demonstrably a part of the matrix from which, 
on historical grounds, it is thought to have been derived. The loss 
of elements, the stressing of others, and the welding of traits from 
different sources, are matters for discussion in a final chapter dealing 
with the processes of cultural growth. 

Rhodesia 
A constant factor in the economic and cultural development of 
the Ovimbundu has been the caravan trade from Bihe" and Bailundu 
northeastward across Africa to the Great Lakes, and southward 
across Moxico into the Zambezi valley and Rhodesia. Every 
traveler from Battell (1600) onward mentions these caravans which 
returned to the Benguela Highlands with slaves and ivory. The 
traditions of journeys still live. Umbundu words are used to describe 
the Great Lakes, and I have mentioned a wooden figure used for 
consultation by the medicine-man at a division of routes. There 
are even today a few large caravans. 

The first regular slave traders into northern Rhodesia were the 
Mbundus from Angola. The Lambas say they were peaceful traders 
who brought calico, guns, and beads to trade for ivory and slaves. 
The Mbundu traders were often treated treacherously by both the 
Lambas and the Lenjes. In some cases they were robbed by the 
Lamba chiefs. It is said that the Lenjes used to bring their own 
children to the Mbundu traders in order to buy calico and powder. 
In the evening the Lenjes used the newly acquired guns to attack 
the Mbundu traders so that they might recover the children who 
had been traded (C. M. Doke, p. 79). 

The account of F. S. Arnot is a valuable record of a journey 
which brought him into touch with these traders' caravans, whose 
route he followed into Garenganze, a country to the southwest of 



Culture Contacts 297 

Lake Moero, close to the territory occupied by the Barotse. With 
his Bihean carriers Arnot passed along the valley of the Kwando 
(Livingstone's Chobe). He notes the use of bark cloth (p. 101) 
and gives an excellent description of the divination basket. "For 
divining they have a basket filled with bones, teeth, finger nails, 
seeds, stones, and such articles which are rattled by the diviner 
till the spirit comes and speaks to him by the movement of these 
things" (pp. 106, 116). The onganga or witch doctor is described 
on page 115; he is a person not to be confused with the ocimbanda 
or legitimate medicine-man. 

Arnot saw a corpse tied to a pole supported on the shoulders of 
several men. "The witch-doctors demanded of the dead man the 
cause of his death, whether by poison or by witchcraft, and if by 
the latter, who was the witch? The jerking of the bier is taken as 
the dead man's answer." This is the ceremony I described at 
Elende about three hundred miles from the place mentioned by 
Arnot. "When a chief dies they say he is sick or asleep [p. 117], and 
an oxhide from a beast killed at the funeral should be buried with 
the chief's remains." Arnot was not quite correct; the body of the 
chief is sewn in the hide. "The people of Bihe* say that there is a 
great spirit Suku over and above all, but they do not know him — I 
cannot say they believe him to be a universal god" (p. 119). 

These instances recorded half a century ago are particularly 
interesting because of their agreement with present-day procedure. 
Arnot's description of the Vachokue country and the preparation of 
beeswax, also the method of extracting honey from hives lodged 
in trees (p. 146), would serve as a present-day record. 

Arnot's information concerns the Garenganze country bordering 
on Katanga, a copper-producing region near the Lualaba River. 
Here traders from Uganda, Unyamwezi, the Luba country, the basin 
of the Zambezi, Bihe\ Nyasa, and Zanzibar, gathered to carry on 
their trade in copper, salt, ivory, slaves, flintlock guns, powder, 
cloth, and beads. Apart from the evidence of any other writer, 
that of Arnot alone would suffice to prove the importance of cultural 
contacts of the Ovimbundu through caravan trade. 

One would be mistaken in supposing that the Biheans made 
occasional contacts only. For three centuries there has been this 
to-and-fro movement between the Benguela Highlands and central 
Africa. In Garenganze, about eight hundred miles from the centers 
of my research, Arnot noted several points that have been recorded 
in my notes. The word for medicine-man is ocimbanda (p. 242). 



298 The Ovimbundu 

The vertebrae of serpents strung together as a girdle are a cure for 
rheumatism (p. 237). A necklace of pythons' vertebrae was obtained 
from a chief of Ngalangi who wore the bones to cure that affliction. 
In Garenganze twins were introduced to the chief at a ceremony 
conducted by a female ocimbanda. The Ovimbundu welcome 
twins and one of triplets is given to the king. 

E. Holub (II) mentions important traits of culture among the 
Marutse, a Rhodesian people who keep cattle. The Marutse have 
an aptitude for working in iron, horn, wood, bone, and leather. The 
masked dance at which performers wore tightly fitting jackets of 
netted fiber, with close-fitting sleeves, gloves, and stockings of the 
same material, would serve as a description of the costumes worn 
in the ceremonies observed at Cangamba in eastern Angola. Holub 
notes the use of the double iron gong at these dances (vol. II, pp. 
168-170). The bark receptacle (p. 308) is the one commonly used 
in eastern Angola, and along the line from Saurimo to Malange. 

The Marutse have the poison ordeal in which vomiting is a sign 
of innocence, the witness being the god Nyambe (p. 322). Gourd 
decorations of the Marutse and Babunda tribes show a technique 
comparable with work of this kind done by the Ovimbundu 
(pp. 305, 335). The practice of cupping is described by Holub 
(p. 325) ; so also is the custom of wearing wooden hair-combs (p. 349). 
These are cultural traits of the Vachokue and the Ovimbundu. 

In his "Eine Kulturskizze des Marutse-Mambunda Reiches" 
Holub gives a few additional points which connect the Marutse 
culture with that of eastern and central Angola. The main instances 
are the technique in gourds (p. 81); the form and hafting of axes 
(p. 116) ; blacksmith's bellows and tongs (p. 129) ; the musical bow 
(p. 139) ; the board with metal keys (p. 138) ; the small friction drum, 
identical in pattern with my specimen from Elende (p. 140, fig. 70) ; 
a musical instrument consisting of a notched board which is rubbed 
with a stick (p. 142) ; tobacco-pipes made from the horns of animals 
and from gourds (p. 147); cylindrical snuff boxes and sticks for 
pounding snuff (p. 150, fig. 83) ; wooden hair-combs (p. 155, fig. 87) ; 
and wooden stools (p. 163, fig. 92). 

All these articles, which are pictured by Holub as being repre- 
sentative of the work of the Marutse of Rhodesia, have their exact 
parallels in Field Museum collections from the Ovimbundu. 

Perusal of "The New Africa" by Schulz and Hammar was not 
ethnologically fruitful except for a series of outline drawings 



Culture Contacts 299 

(p. 110) showing forms of arrowheads used along the course of 
the Chobe River, near the southeast border of Angola. One of the 
heads is of the form most common among the Ovimbundu, while the 
remainder are those in use among the Vachokue. Gourds are of 
the same shapes and decorations as those obtained from Bailundu 
by Field Museum expedition. 

F. H. Melland describes the culture of the Bakonde of northern 
Rhodesia. He is particularly concerned with the Kasempa district 
bordering on eastern Angola, Katanga, and the Barotse country. 
The poison ordeal (p. 222) is in use; vomiting implies innocence. 
The small ceremonial ax is used by the Bakonde in divination rites 
such as I have described for the Ovimbundu at Bailundu and 
Ngalangi (p. 227). The Lunda people wear masks in connection 
with initiation ceremonies (p. 232). Medicines are mixed in the 
horns of the duiker and the bush buck (p. 232). The four-legged, 
skin-topped stool is the same as that made by the Ovimbundu 
(p. 280). 

Melland's description (p. 235) of a rite performed by a belated 
Konde traveler in order to retard the setting of the sun, should be 
mentioned. The top of a small ant heap is stuck into the fork of 
a tree; this is the custom which prevails among the Ovimbundu of 
Elende, and it is also a Lamba practice (C. M. Doke, p. 288). The 
idea is unusual and I suggest that the Rhodesian rite may have been 
derived from the practice of Umbundu carriers. Yet, on the contrary, 
men of the Bihean caravans may have imitated a Rhodesian custom ; 
but the act is so peculiar that independent origin seems improbable. 

H. S. Stannus mentions points which aid the working out of a 
scheme of culture contacts. Stannus describes the Wayao and other 
tribes near Lake Nyasa, which was an area familiar to caravans from 
the Benguela Highlands. The carving of wooden animals (p. 348) 
of no known significance is a favorite pastime in which the Ovim- 
bundu are skilled. Gourd vessels ornamented with lines and 
triangles (p. 349) have a technique similar to that used by the Ovim- 
bundu. The shooting of arrows having blunt wooden heads; pre- 
paring staked pits; use of mucilage for catching birds; poisoning 
fish; and making noose traps (p. 355), are all everyday usages among 
the Ovimbundu, as they are among the Wayao. 

Eastern and east-central Angola are the regions where bark cloth 
is made and worn. The Angolan industry forms an extension of 
the craft as practised in Rhodesia and the southwest Congo basin. 
Stages of stripping bark from the tree and soaking and beating it 



300 The Ovimbundu 

with a wooden mallet are the same over a large area, but there are 
no painted patterns or other fine points of technique which aid the 
study of possible diffusions (Stannus, p. 343). 

The following traits mentioned by Stannus have been recorded 
among the Ovimbundu. There exists the custom of opening graves 
to obtain portions of human remains for use as charms (p. 293); 
the poison ordeal is applied to human beings or to fowls (p. 296); 
the use of horns stuffed with medicine is common (p. 304) ; and divina- 
tion by means of the small objects contained in a gourd resembles 
the method of the Umbundu diviner (p. 302). Stannus states that 
the gourd contains a number of small articles, each of which is named. 
In the divination gourd are small pieces of white earthenware which 
denote innocence, also bits of fiber from a sleeping mat to denote 
sickness. The Ovimbundu use a divination basket, not a gourd, 
for these symbolic objects, but otherwise the methods are the same. 

The bark canoe and the dugout are used. Maize, cassava, beans, 
and peanuts are the principal crops (p. 346). There is ancestor 
worship combined with great fear of ghosts. The head of a family 
petitions a deceased relative, and the headman of a village intercedes 
with his predecessor's ghost. I have mentioned that a headman 
of the Ovimbundu brings out the head of a dead chief wrapped in 
oxhide, makes sacrifice, and asks favors. Stannus notes the seclusion 
and circumcision of boys at puberty, also the ceremonial use of 
bark cloth in these rites (p. 256) . These observations from Nyasaland 
agree with notes made at Cangamba in eastern Angola. A men- 
struating woman sleeps on a mat away from her husband, and she 
is not allowed to prepare food (p. 234). These were noted as prohi- 
bitions for women of the Ovimbundu. 

The classificatory system of relationship outlined by Stannus 
for the Nyasa region is the same as that of the Ovimbundu of Angola. 
A man may not marry a daughter of his mother's sister, but marriage 
with a daughter of his father's brother is a normal union (p. 236). 
The statement of Stannus (p. 239) with regard to the burial of a 
pregnant woman recalls the custom which prevailed until recent 
times at Ngalangi, where a sharp stake projecting from the surface 
soil rested on the abdomen of the dead woman. After the grave 
had been filled the stake was driven downward. Stannus says that 
before filling in the earth one of the gravediggers descends into the 
pit, and, after cutting the abdomen, he inserts the lower end of a 
bamboo, while the upper end is made to project above the surface 
of the grave. In Nyasaland and eastern Angola the alleged reason 



Culture Contacts 301 

for this procedure is the prevention of death among other pregnant 
women. Twins are welcome and well treated (p. 239). 

A corpse is tied to a pole with its limbs bound, and in this manner 
it is carried to the grave, accompanied by drummers. A widow 
watches by the corpse of her husband. At the conclusion of funeral 
rites fires are extinguished, and a new fire is kindled with the fire 
drill in the chief's house, from which distribution of the new fire 
is made. The ashes of the old fires, with the stones supporting the 
cooking pots, are taken to cross-paths and destroyed. 

Cupping is practised (p. 289), and the vapor bath is used (p. 290). 
The patient, covered with a blanket, squats over a pot of water into 
which herbs have been dropped. Hot stones are added to the water 
until it boils and gives off clouds of steam. Wayao boys have the 
whipping top (p. 359); so also have the Ovimbundu. The Wayao 
warm their drums and add wax to alter the tone (p. 365). The 
conical rat trap of plaited cane, used for placing in grass which is 
fired, is that in use by the Ovimbundu (Stannus, plate XX). 

When describing the Wayao culture, C. H. Stigand confirms many 
of the points mentioned by Stannus. Stigand describes the making 
of bark cloth (p. 119) ; the sewing of reed mats with a long needle 
(p. 120); and the importance of the maternal uncle, whose consent 
to the marriage of his sister's children is necessary (p. 122). 

C. Gouldsbury and H. Sheane describe the poison ordeal (p. 61). 
The Wawemba make their poison from the bark of Erythrophlaeum 
guineense, the tree mentioned so frequently in my summary of the 
Congo culture, in which this trait of the poison ordeal is common. 
A chief of the Wawemba goes to the bush accompanied by a medicine- 
man who is stripped of all clothing, and an offering of white beads 
is made to the tree from which the bark is taken. The bark is then 
given into the hands of a young child, who is carried to the village 
so that his feet may not touch the ground. As usual in this ordeal, 
vomiting is a sign of innocence. 

The Wawemba practise cupping (p. 134). A man may not 
marry the daughter of his mother's sister because she is his sister 
(p. 172). The Wawemba carry a corpse on a pole. The king's 
corpse is wrapped in oxhide, and his bows, arrows, and spears are 
placed in a hut on the grave. Then an ox is killed to provide hide 
for binding the rafters of this tomb. Wives and slaves were formerly 
sacrificed at the death of a king. These customs are similar to those 
described for the funeral rites of a king of the Ovimbundu. 



302 The Ovimbundu 

E. W. Smith and A. M. Dale describe tribes which claim that 
they are an offshoot from the eastern Bantu. This ancestry no 
doubt accounts for the presence of many traits which are charac- 
teristic of the culture pattern of the cattle-keeping areas of east 
Africa. The writing of Smith and Dale is important because it deals 
with a region in contact with the Congo, east Africa, and the Ovim- 
bundu. The Wawemba and other tribes described by these authors 
are in contact with the Baluba and the Bambala, who have been in 
touch with the Ovimbundu from the earliest times for which any 
record exists. 

According to Smith and Dale the tribes grouped as Ila-speaking 
peoples extinguish all fires after a funeral, while ashes from mourners' 
fires are collected and thrown away (vol. II, p. 142). This regard 
for ceremonial fire accompanies factors of the cattle culture wherever 
that occurs in east, south, southwest Africa, and the Benguela 
Highlands. The Ila-speaking people grow maize and beans (vol. 
I, p. 137) ; they smoke hemp through the calabash water-pipe (vol. I, 
p. 152); a conical basket fish-trap of Umbundu pattern is used 
(vol. I, p. 163); they peg out hides and scrape them; they also make 
twine by rolling fiber on the inner side of the thigh (vol. I, p. 185). 
Coiled basketry in which the coils are made of many strands of fine 
grass, also shallow winnowing trays, are like those used by the Ovim- 
bundu (vol. I, p. 187). 

Pottery is made by the coiling method (vol. I, p. 192). The 
method of carving stools bears a distinct resemblance to that of 
the Ovimbundu. The bases of milk vessels and stools show supports 
of peculiar shape which are triangular in cross section (vol. I, pp. 
199-202). The Ila-speaking people have a classificatory system of 
relationships consisting of groups of grandparents, fathers, and 
mothers. Terms of address vary according to the relative ages of 
the speaker and the person addressed. Wangu ("older") is the term 
used by the Ovimbundu; so also is tata ("father"). Children of 
the father's brothers, and children of the mother's sisters, that is, 
ortho-cousins, are real brothers and sisters. The mother's eldest 
brother is the most important relative. The word tata is applied 
to all the brothers of the speaker's father. This is the system of the 
Ovimbundu in principle and considerable detail. 

The Ba-ila play mancala (chisolo) with holes in the ground 
(vol. II, p. 233). They have the musical bow (vol. II, p. 263) and 
the metal-keyed musical instrument (Umbundu ocisanji) which is 
played in a gourd (vol. II, p. 265). The Ba-ila use the friction drum 



Culture Contacts 303 

(vol. II, p. 265), which is an instrument of the Ovimbundu and 
several tribes of the southwest Congo. The marimba, made from 
eight slats of wood with gourds underneath, is well known in the 
north and east of Angola. 

There is real similarity both in form and function between the 
culture of Rhodesia and that of the Ovimbundu. This assertion 
does not rest on consideration of a few factors of a general kind. 
In addition to the weight of evidence afforded by the long list of 
similar factors detailed in this section, one must bear in mind the 
geographical proximity and the known historical connection of the 
areas under discussion. The following points are of primary impor- 
tance in accounting for the similarity of culture patterns in Rhodesia 
and the highlands of Angola occupied by the Ovimbundu. 

(1) Central Angola and Rhodesia have so many traits in common 
with each other and with the southwest Congo culture that together 
the three form a cultural harmony. 

(2) Central Angola and Rhodesia have both derived factors from 
the cattle culture of east Africa, though by different routes. 

(3) Rhodesia and central Angola have had prolonged direct 
contacts through caravan trade carried on by the Ovimbundu. 

(4) In addition to diffusion there has been a convergence of cul- 
tures in Rhodesia and central Angola because of similarity of 
geographical conditions. Both are high plateau regions having a 
degree of heat and a rainfall suitable for the growth of maize and 
the rearing of cattle. Therefore these occupations have developed 
in both regions because in each locality there has been a need, 
favorable conditions, and a like response to physical conditions. 

South West Africa 

The principal tribes of this area are the Ovambo, Herero, Berg 
Damara, Nama Hottentots, and Bushmen. The most important 
tribes to consider from the cultural point of view are the Ovambo 
and the Herero. Wandering bands of Bushmen occur in Angola, 
and here and there may be seen among the Ovimbundu individuals 
who appear to have a trace of Bushman blood; but comparison of 
collections and notes relating to the Ovimbundu with literature 
on Bushman tribes does not reveal any similarities. There has 
undeniably been some contact of Bushmen with the inhabitants of 
Angola, but Bushman influence has probably been very slight from a 
cultural and physical point of view (D. Bleek; S. Marquardsen, p. 109). 



304 The Ovimbundu 

The Ovambo include eight kindred tribes, all of whom are 
branches of the Bantu linguistic family to which the Ovimbundu 
belong. The Vakuanyama, who inhabit large tracts of southern 
Angola, are a numerous, warlike, pastoral branch of the Ovambo. 
The Vakuanyama are the only section of the cattle-keeping peoples 
of the southwest of Africa with whom I have made personal contact; 
but their culture is generally representative of that of the Ovambo 
and the Herero. 

When making a journey southward from the country of the 
Ovimbundu in central Angola, there is a noticeable increase in the 
size of the kraals as the journey is continued. The first large kraal 
was observed near Kipungo, and when as far south as Mongua the 
wealthy cattle-keeping Vakuanyama were by far the most numerous 
people. Their total strength is probably about 55,000. I journeyed 
through the Kuanyama country in July, halfway through the dry 
season, but found that cattle were watered at deep wells from which 
men and women were constantly drawing water for the herds. Near 
Ondjiva, only a few miles from British South West Africa, the 
ruler of the Vakuanyama owned at that time 14,000 head of cattle. 

After examining 1,200 objects collected in Angola, I feel sure 
that cultural contact between the Ovimbundu and the Vakuanyama 
is unimportant, so far as artifacts are concerned; but, if the inquiry 
turns to other aspects of culture, there is a more fruitful line of 
investigation. 

Many beliefs and customs center in the keeping of cattle in east 
and south Africa. The typical cattle-keeping area begins with the 
Bahima in the vicinity of Lake Victoria Nyanza. The region extends 
down the eastern side of the continent, through the south and south- 
west into Damaraland. The Vakuanyama of southern Angola 
should be included in this area, which has homologies in respect to 
certain laws, ceremonies, economic customs, and religious beliefs. 

The true pastoral area of the south of Angola extends at least 
as far north as Huila, where there is sufficient rainfall to produce 
good pasture in open country which is well adapted for raising stock. 
All the traditions of the Ovimbundu, along with the writings of 
Battell, suggest this southwest part of Angola as the line of entry for 
cattle. The Congo basin is not a pastoral country, and transporta- 
tion of cattle from Rhodesia would necessitate the crossing of 
hundreds of miles of arid country in Moxico, eastern Angola. There 
remains, therefore, the cattle-keeping area of south and southwest 



Culture Contacts 305 

Angola as the source of supply for the Ovimbundu, who both traded 
and made warfare with the south. 

Therefore, reasonable ground exists for believing that the cultural 
traits that the Ovimbundu associate with the keeping of cattle 
have been taken over with the cattle themselves. The traits agree 
in principle and detail with the factors of the African cattle-keeping 
areas. The characteristics of this pastoral culture have been out- 
lined by M. J. Herskovits (The Cattle Complex in East Africa, 
Amer. Anth., XXVIII, 1926, pp. 270-272; 424-528; 630-664). I 
wish, however, to give prominence to the factor of sacred fire which 
is fundamental in the cattle-keeping culture. The importance of 
sacred fire in the ritual of the Ovimbundu has been demonstrated, 
and this trait is a most important link between the typically Negro 
culture of the Ovimbundu and the Hamitic pastoral culture of 
east Africa. 

A brief summary of the salient facts of the cattle-keeping culture, 
such as is found in east and south Africa, will be given. This will 
be followed by a statement of the cultural traits associated with 
the keeping of cattle among the Ovimbundu in order to demonstrate 
similarities of custom. 

In describing cattle-keeping people of the Lakes region J. Roscoe 
(VI) outlines a pre-pastoral condition characterized by agricultural 
pursuits which still survive near Ruwenzori and Elgon. Of the 
pastoral people the most conservative are the Banyankole of Ankole, 
among whom all social customs fall into line with the keeping of 
cattle. Milk is the principal food, and strong purgatives are taken 
after eating vegetable food, which is regarded as unclean. Agricul- 
turists are a serf class who are not allowed to have milk. A woman 
of the pastoral class would not accept a husband from the agricultural 
people, because they are social inferiors. In such a community one 
finds a strict preservation of customs centering in cattle. Bulls are 
killed beside the grave of a chief, while cows are dedicated to the 
dead chief at whose shrine their milk is offered daily (p. 21). 

Roscoe's account of the worship of the dead in Uganda (III) 
further explains customs that are characteristic of pastoral com- 
munities in which the connection between cattle-keeping and kingship 
is important. The death of the king is not announced and the fact 
of death is kept secret for several days until preparations for the 
succession have been made. "The fire is extinct" is a euphemism 
which refers to the death of the king. The king is buried in a hut 
surrounded by a fence. This hut is later visited by the new king 



306 The Ovimbundu 

who cleans and decorates the jawbone of his predecessor, then 
preserves it in a case of lion skin. Among the Basoga the skull 
of the king is cleaned and stitched in cowhide. It is then placed 
in a temple where a medium lives in order to converse with the 
ghost of the king (p. 43). The Bunyoro line the grave of a king with 
cowhide, and the slaughtered cows are said to serve the dead king 
with milk in a spirit world. 

Roscoe (I, p. 101) states that the Bahima wrap the body of a 
king in the skin of a freshly killed cow; the deities are not often 
invoked, but attention is paid to ancestral ghosts (p. 109). There 
is a Bahima custom of making blood brotherhood by drinking blood 
mixed with milk (p. 117). The Banyankole (Roscoe, V, p. 32), 
institute a blood brotherhood by rubbing each other with blood 
drawn from their navels by an arrow. The body of a king is 
sewn in cowhide (p. 58). A cow is killed and eaten at the grave of 
a chief (p. 146). 

A further examination of Roscoe's observations (IV) adds 
corroborative information. The Bakitara have rain-makers for 
each district (p. 28). There is a ritual for establishing blood brother- 
hood (p. 46). At the king's death all fires in the royal enclosure 
are extinguished; so also are the fires in each royal cow kraal. Fresh 
fires are made by friction in the new royal enclosure from which 
fire is distributed to the kraals (p. 47). The Bakitara test two 
litigants or accused persons by asking each to provide chickens 
which are made to take poison (p. 70). The death of the king is 
not announced for some days; he is said to be asleep. A young bull 
is killed to provide a shroud for the king's body (p. 121). The king's 
spear and walking stick are kept in the tomb (p. 126). At the death 
of a king of the Baganda the guardian of the king's sacred fire is 
strangled. A war leader rubs himself with ashes from the sacred 
fire in order to increase his strength and courage (Roscoe, II, pp. 
103, 349). 

The concept of the sacred fire has spread, not only down the 
east side of Africa and into Angola, but northeastward to the Lotuko- 
speaking peoples. Here a new fire has to be kindled at the initiation 
of a member of the drum-house. At puberal initiation ceremonies 
for boys, the rain-maker creates new fire with twirling sticks, which 
are never again used, though they are preserved. All fires in the 
village are extinguished before the new fires are made. The freshly 
ignited fire is distributed first to drum-houses then to the homes 
(C. G. and B. Z. Seligman, Sudan Notes and Records, VIII, pp. 12, 



Culture Contacts 307 

15). Fire is kindled on the grave and tended by a relative for 
thirty days (p. 38). 

When the- Masai desire rain, a fire of cordia wood is lighted. 
Into this a medicine-man throws charms, after which several 
medicine-men dance round the fire and sing (A. C. Hollis, The 
Masai, p. 348). 

Bosch states that the Banyamwezi have a fire-making rite 
which is symbolic and religious, "mais avant tout il est magique." 
The new fire is made annually at the brewing of the first beer. New 
fire is made when epidemics of sickness occur, also at the inaugura- 
tion of a new chief. The Ovimbundu make and distribute new 
fire on each of these occasions. The Banyamwezi strangle their 
decrepit king but do not announce the death. A report stating that 
the king is sick is issued (Les Banyamwezi, pp. 229-233). 

The usages of the cattle-keeping Ovambo (of whom the Vaku- 
anyama of southern Angola are a section) and the Herero, are of 
paramount importance in this research because of their proximity 
to the Ovimbundu. 

H. Vedder (III, p. 156) has come to the conclusion that the 
Herero represent the southern extremity of a racial migration from 
the region of the Great Lakes, and this is the generally accepted 
view. Vedder states that the Herero came through the south of 
Angola, crossed the Cunene River, and entered the Kaokoveld 
(p. 166). From a study of native traditions, philology, and cultural 
elements, there is reason for supposing that the Ovambo, including 
the Vakuanyama, extended farther into Angola than they do today; 
hence contacts with the Ovimbundu were probably frequent, and 
possibly continuous for a period. 

C. H. L. Hahn has recently made an analysis of the traits of 
Kuanyama culture. His introductory pages give an account of 
Kalunga, a supreme being whose name is coupled with the name 
Nangombe. There is here a philological resemblance to words used 
by the Ovimbundu. Kalunga is an Umbundu word meaning "greet- 
ings," "sea," "lord," and "death," the meaning varying with the 
context and accent. Ongombe is the Umbundu word for ox, while 
Kangombe is the name of more than one chief of historical importance. 
The Herero respect a supreme being whom they call Ndjambi 
Karunga. Nyambi is a well-known word in the Congo region, and 
the Ovimbundu have the word Njambi, or Na-Njambi, which means 
"Lord Njambi." 



308 The Ovimbundu 

The Ovambo will not allow the tribal fire of the chief's kraal to 
burn out because it is the life of the people (Hahn, p. 3). This author 
writes in the past tense, from which one infers that the customs he 
describes have declined. Two old men were the keepers of the 
sacred fire; these guardians were chosen from the circumcised men 
(p. 17). The fire was never allowed to flare, but only to smolder. 
No one referred to this fire, nor was anyone allowed to sit near it, cook 
over it, or warm himself. The whole tribe received the fire from 
the chief, who originally gave it to the headman for distribution to 
commoners (p. 18). Hahn remarks that, although these customs 
are declining, they are still observed by the Vakuanyama, the branch 
of the Ovambo which is in closest contact with the Ovimbundu. 

In the same publication (III, p. 68) Vedder says of the Berg 
Damara that a series of religious ideas centers in the holy fire which 
burns perpetually on the eastern side of a sacred tree in the middle 
of each village. At this fire the elders cook their meat, and here 
the council meeting is held. In order to obtain a seat at the holy 
fire a young man has to submit to initiation as a hunter on three 
occasions, at intervals of a year. Children may not play at the holy 
fire. When hunting becomes unprofitable the Berg Damara move 
to a new site, and a glowing piece of wood is taken from the sacred 
fire in order to kindle a new one. This is the practice described in 
connection with the formation of a new village site by the Ovim- 
bundu. A more detailed account of sacred fire is given by Vedder 
(II, pp. 23-27). 

L. Fourie, another contributor to "Native Tribes of Southwest 
Africa," shows that the Heikom Bushmen have a sacred fire kindled 
and owned by the headman, who is the only person who knows how 
to bring from this fire the properties which induce health and well- 
being. When making a new settlement the headman kindles the 
new fire under the sacred tree, and fire from the old camp may not 
be used. After the headman has dropped herbs into the fire and 
has lighted his pipe therefrom, his wife takes brands for kindling 
the fire in her hut. The fire is then distributed from this point among 
the whole group (p. 87). 

The center for religious worship among the Herero is an ash 
heap in which a weak fire glimmers. This is blown into a blaze 
only on festive occasions. The fire is always situated between the 
chief kraal and the house of the principal wife. Round the fire lie 
horns of cattle which have been slaughtered as an offering (Vedder, 
III, p. 167). The holy fire is a gift from Mukuru, and extinction of 



Culture Contacts 309 

the fire means disaster for the tribe. If the fire should die out, only 
the priest as living representative of Mukuru may rekindle it. The 
relighting is done by means of fire-sticks, which are said to be male 
and female. A traveler makes sure of the blessing of his ancestors 
by taking a firebrand from the holy fire with him. When laying the 
foundation of a new house the builder must obtain a firebrand from 
the fire of a recognized priest-chief. 

To corroborate the information given by Vedder, one may turn 
to the work of J. Irle (II, pp. 337, 342, 346). The soul, which is not 
corporeal, is identified with the heart as among the Ovimbundu 
and in the southwest Congo. The Herero use sandals which they 
bury with the dead. Probably the Ovimbundu have borrowed 
the idea of sandals from this southern culture, since there are no 
sandal-wearing people found on any other side of them. The 
Herero speak of Ndjambi, and Irle asks, "Who is Ndjambi, with 
whom they so frequently associated the name Karunga?" They 
say that Karunga is Ndjambi who sends rain, thunder, and 
lightning. The Herero say, "Karunga dwells in heaven. He does us 
only good, therefore we do not fear him and do not sacrifice to 
him." Holy fire, which is never allowed to go out, is made with 
fire-sticks in the ancestor house. 

A. W. Hoernl^ has commented on the use of sacred fire by the 
Hottentots. Nau is a mystic force; for example, an animal killed 
by lightning is nau. As soon as a person becomes nau, the fire in 
his hut is nau and must no longer be used for cooking. A fire kindled 
with the fire-sticks is used for the purification ceremony of a girl who 
menstruates for the first time. After the ceremony she may resume 
her milking duties. The Hottentots use the sweat bath as a means 
of purifying mourners. An article entitled "The Sacred Fire of 
the Bapedi of the Transvaal," by W. M. Eiselen, adds important 
data to the notes given here. 

All this evidence from east and southwest Africa is in close 
agreement with personal observations among the Ovimbundu. The 
contacts of the Ovimbundu with southern Angola are established 
facts, hence history and geography render the hypothesis of a deriva- 
tion of culture probable. The Ovimbundu regard cattle as an 
estimate of weath and social standing. Usually the animals are not 
killed or milked, but they are used to pay fines, and to make 
purchases. 

In dealing with kingship among the Ovimbundu I note a strong 
resemblance to customs prevailing near Victoria Nyanza, the 



310 The Ovimbundu 

principal focus of the cattle-keeping areas. The king's death is not 
announced by the Ovimbundu. There is a special hut for burial, 
and part of the head is later removed for decoration and separate 
interment. This part of the royal corpse is subsequently brought 
out for worship and supplication. The Ovimbundu never admit the 
death of a king until a successor has been chosen. The king's body is 
buried in oxhide, but the head is severed by suspending the corpse 
with a rope round the neck, then twisting the body. The head is 
sewn in oxhide and kept in a box. In time of drought or before 
a journey a chief or medicine-man visits the head to make a sacrifice 
and ask for help. Oxen are killed at funeral feasts of the wealthy and 
the horns are mounted over the grave. Mourners for the king wear 
strips of oxhide round their wrists. 

There can be no doubt that the Ovimbundu received the above 
traits, also their knowledge and use of the sacred fire, from the cattle- 
keeping area. The use of sacred fire has been shown to be a primary 
trait associated with the keeping of cattle. Reference to field work 
among the Ovimbundu indicates that the usages connected with 
sacred fire agree in detail with those of the pastoral area. The 
Ovimbundu keep the sacred fire burning in the burial place of kings; 
for instance at Ngalangi, as described. The Ovimbundu create 
new fire by twirling when a new village site is opened, and the 
fire is distributed from the chief's home. Lustration after an epidemic 
of sickness is always ceremonially carried out by creation of new 
fire on which the blood of sacrificed animals is sprinkled. There- 
fore, in general outline and considerable detail the factors associated 
with cattle-keeping among the Ovimbundu are those of the pastoral 
areas of east, south, and southwest Africa. 

In summarizing we may say that contacts of the Ovimbundu with 
southwest Africa have arisen from occupation of contiguous territory, 
along with trading and raiding. The acquisitions made by the 
Ovimbundu from pastoral tribes include several artifacts such as 
sandals, the assagai, and the throwing club. More important than 
the diffusion of these objects into Umbundu culture has been the 
reception of the cattle themselves, along with the social values, 
usages, and religious beliefs which are the usual concomitants of 
the African pastoral culture. 

A study of the culture contacts of the Ovimbundu conclusively 
shows that they are not an isolated people whose artifacts, religious 
beliefs, and social life stand out distinctively from the culture 
patterns around them. On the contrary the Ovimbundu have, 



Culture Contacts 311 

through trade and warfare, been an absorbent people, reaching out 
in all directions and assimilating all cultural traits which were of 
service. 

Up to this point, only the immediate culture contacts of the 
Ovimbundu have been considered. Yet it is evident that some of 
the cultural traits which have been discussed are widely diffused 
in Africa. Consequently, some further inquiry is needed if the 
tribal life of the Ovimbundu is to be considered against a broad 
ethnological background of African culture. 



XL WIDER CULTURE CONTACTS 

When dealing with the immediate culture contacts of the Ovim- 
bundu, the traits found in central Angola were considered in rela- 
tion to the cultural elements of each of three areas, the Congo basin, 
Rhodesia, and South West Africa. In this chapter attention is given 
to some traits that are found, not only among the Ovimbundu and 
adjacent peoples, but among some other African tribes remote from 
the present-day location of the Ovimbundu. The Graebnerian 
school has indeed claimed that some of these widely distributed 
African traits are Melanesian and Indonesian in origin, a theory 
which is briefly considered in the latter part of this chapter. 

The present examination of widely distributed traits is facilitated 
by referring to each of a number of papers not previously mentioned. 
For example, E. Torday (IV) has dealt in general with religion and 
social organization among Bantu tribes. H. Baumann (II) has 
discussed hoe-culture and matriarchal conditions in Bantu Africa. 
G. Lindblom (I) has brought together a large body of evidence relat- 
ing to the distribution of hunting devices. H. Balfour (I, II, III) 
has outlined the distribution of the friction drum. Hence there 
exist useful summaries of trait distributions with which cultural 
factors of the Ovimbundu can be compared. 

Antiquity of Cultural Traits 

At the outset we must recognize that the extent of distribution 
of a trait and its importance in the cultural pattern may be but 
a treacherous guide to its antiquity. The widespread use and cultiva- 
tion of tobacco and maize are instances of this kind. The growth 
and curing of tobacco led to the adoption of this commodity as a 
medium of exchange which could be conveniently carried by caravans. 
Exchange of snuff as a form of greeting, also the passing of a com- 
munal pipe from hand to hand in the men's house, are instances of 
social usages which caused a rapid spread of a commodity in a short 
time (Laufer, Hambly, and Linton, Tobacco and Its Uses in Africa, 
Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Anthr. Leaflet 29, 1929). 

The use of maize, one of the most important factors in the 
building and preservation of Umbundu culture, has a wide distribu- 
tion in Africa, but its introduction is dated only from the sixteenth 
century. The Portuguese carried on a regular traffic in slaves 
between Angola and Brazil, and in all probability this resulted in 
the introduction of manioc, peanuts, and sweet potatoes. Possibly 

312 



Wider Culture Contacts 313 

the yam also was introduced. All these food plants spread with 
great rapidity, hence the extent of their distribution is not a guide 
to their antiquity. 

The Blacksmith's Craft in Africa 

The antiquity of the blacksmith's occupation is not easy to 
determine, though the usefulness of the craft, and the accessibility 
of surface-ore in many parts of Africa, might incline one to favor 
a theory of rapid diffusion. There is an extensive literature dealing 
with the origin of the blacksmith's craft, which is variously attributed 
to the Negro, the ancient Egyptians, or to Hamitic invaders. 

Diffusion of the craft, and not independent invention in many 
parts of Africa, is suggested by the continuity of like forms of 
apparatus; taboos of the same kind connected with the blacksmith; 
treatment of smiths as a special caste; also their employment of 
ritual in making furnaces, training apprentices, and consecrating 
their tools. 

Iron objects requiring considerable skill in their manufacture 
are described by the earliest writers who came in contact with 
northern Angola, and early observations relating to iron gongs and 
axes have already been given. This evidence therefore suggests 
that the Ovimbundu must have had a knowledge of the working of 
iron when they entered the Benguela Highlands. 

The following data from many parts of Africa are adduced to 
show the relation of the blacksmith's craft among the Ovimbundu 
to a wider background, of which Umbundu customs form a part. 
The Ovimbundu have developed ritual aspects of the blacksmith's 
craft which have already been described, and along with these the 
following instances should be considered. 

Naturally, special local developments occur, but the general 
attitude of the Ovimbundu toward blacksmiths is in accord with a 
widely distributed body of African beliefs affecting Bantu, semi- 
Bantu, Sudanic, and Hamitic-speaking tribes, from which a few 
instances may be noted. 

Among the Kpelle of Liberia a blacksmith receives no pay for 
work done for a chief, but he is free from military service. The 
blacksmith is a confidential person for the whole village, and he is 
conversant with many family secrets (D. Westermann, Die Kpelle, 
p. 170). Blacksmiths of the Ibo of Nigeria form a strong union 
which resents intrusion into the secrets of the craft. Blacksmiths 
are to be found only in certain towns which form halting places on 



314 The Ovimbundu 

their itinerary (G. T. Basden, Among the Ibos of Nigeria, p. 176). 
At Ife in a sacred grove I saw objects which were described as 
the hammer and the anvil of the first blacksmith. Over the anvil 
stone were the remains of a recently sacrificed dog. Such an offering 
is made twice a year to Ogun, the patron god of blacksmiths. Among 
the Masai, blacksmiths are said to be unlucky with cattle, and are 
therefore not allowed to own them. Smiths have their own language 
which is not well understood by other people of the tribe (A. C. 
Hollis, The Masai, p. 331). The Suk say that no woman may see 
a blacksmith at work because his tools would become heavy in his 
hand, then he would go mad and die. There is chanting by the black- 
smiths during forging and molding (M. W. H. Beech, The Suk, p. 18). 

Working in iron is accompanied by many special rites among the 
Bakitara; in fact, taboos are observed from the time of preparing 
the charcoal. Smiths belong to the serf class. Among the omens, 
sneezing is a warning from a ghost indicating that there is danger 
near and work is therefore discontinued. Offerings are made to the 
spirit of the hill where ore is dug in order to prevent burial of the 
diggers (J. Roscoe, IV, p. 218). When a Banyankole smith is making 
a new hammer he gives a feast at which six goats are killed. This 
sacredness of the large hammer was emphasized among the 
Ovimbundu. 

Southwest of Lake Bangweolo a small shrine is erected near 
the smelting furnace, and here a prayer is offered to spirits of former 
smelters (H. B. Barnes, J.R.A.L, LVI, p. 191). The Ila-speaking 
people of Rhodesia have a principal blacksmith who is named 
munganga wa butale ("the iron doctor")- Secrets of the craft are 
preserved by transmission from father to son only. The munganga 
takes charge of the preparation of iron and directs the ceremonies 
(E. W. Smith and A. M. Dale, I, pp. 203-207). E. Torday records 
that the Bambala have a T-shaped hammer with a pointed handle. 
"It is practically impossible to obtain a specimen of these hammers 
since death is the portion of a smith who parts with his tools." 
(I, p. 406.) 

These examples do not reveal the origin of the blacksmith's 
craft and its ritual, but they explain Umbundu customs as part 
of a system of ideas which affects the whole continent of Africa 
south of the Sahara. 

Bantu Religion and Social System 

The spiritual beliefs of the Ovimbundu have already been shown 
to agree with those of the Congo basin and southwest Africa. 



Wider Culture Contacts 315 

E. Torday's paper, "Dualism in Western Bantu Religion and Social 
Organization," is an admirable summary of a wide background 
of Bantu beliefs with which those of the Ovimbundu agree in detail. 
Torday (VI) has also given a summary of Bantu sexual relations. 
His summary of prenuptial relationships of boys and girls, the 
system of polygyny, and domestic arrangements in general, indicates 
that records made among the Ovimbundu are but a sample of an 
extensive and homogeneous series of Bantu sex customs. 

With regard to the classificatory system of relationships and 
cross-cousin marriage, sufficient quotations have been given to 
indicate that the system of the Ovimbundu is one which is paralleled 
in Rhodesia, the Congo basin, and still more remote regions. To 
the instances given should be added corroborative examples from 
J. Roscoe (The Baganda, p. 109), R. S. Rattray (Ashanti, p. 29), 
and H. A. Stayt (The Bavenda, pp. 172-184). L. H. Buxton and 
R. S. Rattray have offered a theory to explain the kinship system 
and cross-cousin marriage in Ashanti {Jour. African Soc, XXIV, 
p. 83; Religion and Art in Ashanti, p. 318). 

In Africa a classificatory system of relationships is particularly 
characteristic of the Bantu area. The system is Semitic and Hamitic. 
It is not reported among the Bushmen, but is in vogue among the 
Nama Hottentots. The wide distribution of a classificatory system, 
with variations, and its importance in tribal life, suggest antiquity 
(see Hoernl£, II, and B. Z. Seligman, III). 

H. Baumann (I) has prepared maps showing the distribution of 
customs affecting descent of property in Africa. Investigation among 
the Ovimbundu proves that their scheme of inheritance of property 
is part of a more widely distributed system. Baumann (pp. 66, 127) 
states that in the Kasai valley and the Cabinda Enclave the rights 
of the mother's brother are expressed in his control of his sister's 
children. The power of the maternal uncle in Ovimbundu families 
was reported, and it was stated that he has the right to sell his 
sister's children for redemption of his debts. Baumann's map 
further indicates an area in which property descends, not to a wife 
or children, but to a mother's brother, or to the sons of the deceased 
man's oldest sister. The social system of the Ovimbundu is definitely 
a part of this cultural matrix, which extends to the north and north- 
east of the Ovimbundu but, according to Baumann's record, not to 
the south of Angola. In the south of Angola among pastoral people 
a system of succession and inheritance in the male line prevails, and 



316 The Ovimbundu 

this method is characteristic of many pastoral tribes of south and 
east Africa. 

The Ovimbundu are situated between two systems of reckoning 
descent, succession, and inheritance; namely, the Negro system of 
the Congo region, and that of the eastern and southern cattle- 
keeping people. In view of the culture contacts described in Chapter 
X, the mixed system of the Ovimbundu is intelligible. 

On the one hand the Ovimbundu emphasize the rights of the 
mother's brother while denying inheritance to a wife and her children, 
but in royal families the eldest son of the principal wife succeeds 
to kingship. Among commoners descent is reckoned through both 
the father and the mother. Therefore the inference is that the 
Ovimbundu have, by virtue of their position and contacts, made a 
blending of two distinct social systems, one of which gives succession 
to office in the male line, while the other gives inheritance in the 
female line. In their system of burial rites for kings the Ovimbundu 
follow the usages of the pastoral area. 

Exchange of blood is an Umbundu custom resembling that 
which occurs widely in Negro Africa. This exchange of blood is 
the typical Negro form of the blood brotherhood. Another rite 
is the Hamitic custom of drinking a mixture of blood and milk; 
this the Ovimbundu do not practise. 

The hoe-cultivation practised by Ovimbundu women is in agree- 
ment with Baumann's association of hoe-culture and matriarchal 
conditions, the latter being indicated by the importance of the 
mother's brother. These concomitant factors are shown by Baumann 
(II, p. 292) to be characteristic of a wide area in the Congo basin. 
To this area may be added the whole of central Angola. 

The factors of slavery among the Ovimbundu are in agreement 
with all that is known of the treatment of slaves in the Congo area 
and farther west Africa. Slaves of the Ovimbundu taken in warfare 
were treated with less consideration than those who passed into 
slavery to redeem a debt. There was also discrimination in favor 
of slaves taken in local quarrels among the Ovimbundu themselves. 
The killing and eating of slaves in north Angola is a custom whose 
early occurrence has already been noted. 

African Puberty Rites 
Initiation ceremonies for boys and girls are at present well 
preserved among the Vachokue of eastern Angola; for a period such 
ceremonies declined among the Ovimbundu, but there is now a 



Wider Culture Contacts 317 

recrudescence. Masks of eastern Angola most closely resemble those 
of the Bapindi of the southwest Congo, but the general background 
of these puberty rites is comparable in Angola, parts of the Congo, 
and in several parts of the forest belt of west Africa from Sierra 
Leone to Cameroon. 

Usually there is seclusion, hardship, training in dances and tribal 
customs, with ceremonial reappearance and change of name. 
Evidently the Ovimbundu share the material traits and the psycho- 
logical background of initiatory rites with a very large number of 
tribes, which occupy the forest zones of west and central Africa. 

G. Lindblom's publication, "The Use of Stilts in Africa and 
America," helps to explain the occurrence of stilt-walking at the 
final ceremonies of initiation witnessed at Cangamba. Since stilt- 
walking in Angola occurs chiefly in the eastern section, perhaps one 
should link the trait with the stilt-walking in Nyasaland, because 
there has been continuous communication from Angola to Nyasaland 
along the Zambezi valley. The stilt-walking of eastern Angola may, 
however, be a cultural offshoot from the southwest Congo, for 
according to Lindblom the stilt-walking trait occurs there, and the 
contacts of eastern Angola with the southwest Congo have been 
important. 

In turning from these factors of social life to traits of a more 
material kind, there are points of importance to be noted in connec- 
tion with food supply and industries. A possibility exists that 
such traits as hunting, use of certain types of musical instruments, 
basketry, and pottery, will indicate that the Ovimbundu, before 
their separation, drew some of their fundamental traits from a widely 
distributed matrix. 

Hunting Appliances of Africa 

L. S. B. Leakey (A New Classification of the Bow and Arrow 
in Africa, J.R.A.I., LVI, pp. 259-294) has dealt with the distribu- 
tion of bows and arrows. Leakey states that, owing to lack of 
evidence, he was unable to describe the bows and arrows of Angola. 
I have therefore illustrated these in detail (Plate XVII, Figs. 1-9). 

Some of the arrowheads used by the Ovimbundu resemble those 
of the Bashilele in the southwest Congo, but on the whole arrow- 
heads used in Angola are of distinctive patterns, and presumably 
they represent a special local development. The round bow of the 
Ovimbundu and the Vachokue is like that of the southern Congo, 
and it is absolutely distinct from the short flat bow used in southern 
Angola among the Vakuanyama. 



318 The Ovimbundu 

The question of arrow release is important in this connection. 
R. B. Dixon (The Building of Cultures, p. 131), while discussing 
evidence from Wissler, Kroeber, and Morse, has plotted a map 
showing the distribution of types of arrow release in all parts of 
the world. The Ovimbundu (Plate XXXIX, Fig. 1) use the Medi- 
terranean release, which is shown by Kroeber (Univ. Calif. Pub., 
XXIII, p. 286) to occur in the southwest Congo region along with 
the tertiary release. My illustration and Kroeber's description of 
the Mediterranean release show that the thumb is kept entirely 
out of the way. The string is engaged by the inner surfaces of the 
tips of the index and middle fingers. The engaging finger-ends are 
at right angles to the string. 

Young boys often use the primary release when shooting blunt 
wooden arrows at birds. In this release the butt of the arrow is 
clasped between the end of the thumb and the middle knuckle of 
the index finger. Kroeber remarks that the primary release is almost 
invariably attempted by children and uninstructed novices, which 
accords with my observations made in Angola. Presumably boys 
of the Ovimbundu change their method of release from the primary 
to the Mediterranean when they handle a man's bow and arrows. 
The Mediterranean release was observed throughout Angola, with 
the exception of the primary release employed by boys. 

G. Lindblom (I, Part I) assists in comparing hunting apparatus 
of the Ovimbundu with a large number of African forms. 

The throwing clubs of the Ovimbundu are definitely like those 
of the Hottentots, Barotse, and Bushmen (pp. 120-126). 

In Part II of his leaflet Lindblom discusses many kinds of traps. 
The trap built of heavy poles, which is used for catching lions, 
leopards, and hyenas, is used all over Negro Africa; there is nothing 
distinctive in the form and use of the Umbundu pattern. The cane 
rat trap of conical form is described and its distribution L plotted 
(pp. 52, 53, 56). Lindblom's map shows a clustering round the 
mouth of the Congo, also again at Long. 30° E. and Lat. 10° S. 
The blank for Angola can now be filled. These traps are used in 
many parts of Angola, notably among the Vasele of the northwest, 
at Elende, Ngalangi, and Cangamba. The use of this trap in Angola 
explains its presence among the Vakuanyama. On Lindblom's 
map the occurrence of the trap in south Angola is isolated from 
the general African distribution, but use of the trap is really con- 
tinuous from the Congo estuary through Angola to the Vakuanyama. 



Wider Culture Contacts 319 

The use of bird-arrows with blunt, wooden knobs was common 
at Elende, and I collected sharp, barbed, wooden arrows from the 
Vasele, also from the areas of Kipungo and Mongua. This will 
assist in extending the information given by Lindblom (pp. 94-98). 
Lindblom's map (p. 99) indicates that bird-arrows are used round 
Lake Victoria Nyanza, at the junction of the Kasai and the Congo, 
and likewise among the Bushongo and the Bayaka. My observation 
of the distribution of wooden arrows in Angola links up these regions 
shown by Lindblom with the south of Angola. Perhaps a trans- 
continental diffusion in a southwesterly direction from Victoria 
Nyanza may be assumed, for it is unlikely that the diffusion would 
go counter to the generally accepted line of tribal migration which 
has been from northeast to southwest. 

African Pottery, Baskets, and Musical Instruments 

There is no reason to connect the pottery of the Ovimbundu 
with that of any particular region. The coiling method is far too 
widespread and generic to afford evidence of contacts. The Ovim- 
bundu have evolved their own peculiar designs and forms. 

In coiled basketry also the Ovimbundu have made special 
developments from a generic trait known in Egypt before 2000 B.C. 
Designs and dyes appear to be of local origin. My observation of 
African basketry does not suggest any particular parent form; 
moreover, resemblances of design may be misleading, for the nature 
of the material controls the shapes of the designs to a great extent 
in coiled basketry. 

Wood-carving, on the contrary, links the culture of the Ovim- 
bundu very definitely with that of the southwest Congo. Perhaps 
the work of Angola is most closely allied with that of the Bakuba, 
who excel in the carving of figurines, cups, and staffs. 

H. Balfour's article (III) on the distribution of the friction drum 
helps to identify the form used by the Ovimbundu with types 
of this instrument from other African areas. The type from Elende 
is like that of Barotseland with which the Ovimbundu caravans were 
frequently in contact, while the large friction drum from Ngalangi 
is of the Bayaka pattern. The friction drum is widely used in the 
southwest Congo among the Bakwese, the Bambala, and the Baluba. 

Thus far research has been able to show a large number of 
cultural traits of the Ovimbundu in relation to immediate culture 
contacts of the Congo basin, Rhodesia, and South West Africa 
(chapter X). In addition to this, many traits connected with social 



320 The Ovimbundu 

organization and artifacts have been described in relation to a wide 
cultural background in Negro Africa. There remains, however, the 
more difficult problem of a possible introduction of some of these 
cultural traits from regions outside the continent of Africa itself. 

KULTURKREIS THEORY 

Our investigation is able to account for the occurrence of certain 
widely distributed traits which the Ovimbundu possess, either in 
their common form or in some specialized aspect. The broader 
problem of the possible origin of African traits in Melanesia and 
Indonesia is one that should not be neglected. 

The kulturkreis theory as expounded by Graebner (Methode 
der Ethnologie, Heidelberg, 1911) has been applied to Africa by 
B. Ankermann (Zeitsch. Ethn., 1905, pp. 62-90). Frobenius has 
expressed his views in "Der Ursprung der afrikanischen Kulturen," 
Leipzig, 1894; "Das unbekannte Afrika," Munich, 1923; and the 
"Atlas afrikanus," Munich, 1922. 

An article of Frobenius (Smithsonian Institution Reports, 1898, 
pp. 638-647) summarizes the Graebnerian thesis so far as Africa is 
concerned. Frobenius says that the Malayo-Negritan relationship 
of African culture is established. Certain cultural elements appear 
together and are equally distributed. Ethnographical objects 
illustrative of phases of culture may be examined with a view to 
fixing their descent, just as we examine the limbs and organs of a 
living being, and the theory is concerned with morphological con- 
siderations in particular. 

Frobenius states (p. 639), that he is concerned with studying the 
genealogical tree of culture forms, and as a first example he chooses 
wooden drums which are found in the Congo basin and lower Guinea; 
these drums are said to be of Malayo-Negritan origin. The next 
example chosen is that of the Malayo-Negritan bow. Wooden 
shields of Africa with reed covering have related forms in New 
Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Pile dwellings are found in 
Dahomey and among the Ambuella; also in New Guinea. Chairs 
and neck rests used by many Negro tribes are of Oceanic form. There 
is a Malayo-Negritan affinity of bark fabrics of Africa with the 
well-known tapa cloth of Oceania (p. 644). The "likeness of 
anatomical origin, coupled with the outlined area of distribution, is 
evidence not to be gainsaid" (p. 645). The culture of a fishing 
community is on all sides characterized by mesh work. In New 
Guinea the net is used as clothing, and in the whole of west Africa we 



Wider Culture Contacts 321 

hear of the netted jerseys of the disguised. The matriarchate is 
possibly to be classed among Malayo-Negritan characteristics, in 
particular when accompanied by exogamy. So runs the Graebnerian 
argument. 

To these cultural factors from Melanesia Frobenius adds the 
gora, which he compares with a form from New Pommern. He also 
mentions the marimba; tobacco-pipes of the Ituri region, which are 
likened to those of New Guinea; and the scarification of the Bashi- 
lange, which has some circular characters said to be like Maori 
moko. The prows of canoes in Dualla (Cameroon) are compared 
with those of the Admiralty Islands. 

The factors of Asiatic culture which have affected northern 
Africa are more readily accepted because of known historical contacts 
of a continuous kind over geographically contiguous regions. Prob- 
ably Frobenius is right in attributing the drum with a pottery base, 
chain armor, quilted armor, the long knife, and the stringed instru- 
ment rababa, to Asiatic sources. The round shields of northeast 
Africa may be accepted as of Asiatic origin. These points, though 
part of the general theory, do not concern our study of the Ovim- 
bundu, who do not possess these alleged Asiatic traits. 

The supposed line of migration of Malayo-Negritan culture up 
the Zambezi valley, thence along the Sankuru into the Congo basin 
and so to Cameroon and farther west Africa, presents no great 
obstacle, but the hypothesis lacks a coordination of cultural elements 
and a historico-psychological explanation. 

In considering several Indonesian factors such as those mentioned 
by R. Linton as occurring in Madagascar (Amer. Anth., 1928, 
pp. 372-389), and while regarding the evidence of J. Hornell {Man, 
1928, No. 1) respecting the similarity of canoes on Lake Victoria 
Nyanza and along the coast with those from Java, there is no 
difficulty in admitting impacts from Indonesia. There is, however, 
only the beginning of a hypothesis in these comparisons. 

The construction of a theory purporting to show phylogenetic 
connection between cultures as remote as those of Sierra Leone and 
Melanesia still requires elaboration. At the present time there is 
not sufficient detail available for the filling in of distribution maps 
purporting to show the line of migration of this postulated Malayo- 
Negritan culture. But according to Graebnerian views a hiatus 
merely means that the intrusive culture has disappeared. 

The question arises respecting evidence from Angola which may 
favor or refute the validity of a Malayo-Negritan origin of some 



322 The Ovimbundu 

culture elements of Negro Africa. Among the cultural traits of 
the Ovimbundu are a few which the Graebnerians would claim as 
evidence of the passage of Indonesian cultural waves. Use of the 
bow is part of the bow culture. Matriarchal conditions and hoe- 
culture by women would be regarded as a somewhat later wave of 
culture. Frobenius would ascribe the use of netted clothing during 
initiation to an Oceanic origin. There is a small area in southeast 
Angola where pile dwellings are built by the Ambuella tribe. Bark 
cloth is made in eastern Angola. The marimba and the musical bow 
are traits of Umbundu and Oceanic culture. 

The point at issue seems to be the acceptance or rejection of 
cultural contacts on the ground of alleged resemblance in forms. 
Frobenius would doubtless add that the supposed Malayo-Negritan 
factors in Umbundu culture lie only a little to the southwest of the 
Zambezi, which is a main line of hypothetical migration of Malayo- 
Negritan factors. 

Each of these elements of Umbundu culture is of a non-specific 
kind. For example, there is nothing about the bark cloth, except 
that it is a bark cloth, to link it with similar material in any other 
part of the world. Stripping the tree, soaking the bark and beating 
it, are part of the general technique. 

The musical bow has a wide distribution, as H. Balfour (I) 
has shown. He studies the distribution in Africa, North and South 
America, Asia, India, the Malay Archipelago, Melanesia, and 
Polynesia. He postulates the derivation from the archers' bow and 
says (p. 85), "The question whether or no we are to regard the 
musical bows in India and in Africa as belonging to one family, is 
one which is difficult to answer." Balfour is impressed with similarity 
of forms in India and Africa, but feels that the common origin is 
not demonstrable. 

When comparing types of masks and costumes within the African 
continent itself the work of Frobenius (I) is found to be useful in 
indicating areas over which certain types of regalia are used in initia- 
tion ceremonies. There is undoubtedly a localization of types, and 
we previously noted that Angolan forms of masks and costumes 
are definitely like those of the Bakuba and the Baluba in the south- 
west Congo region. Moreover, the netting costumes used by the 
Ovimbundu and the Vachokue of Angola closely resemble those used 
in some parts of the Congo basin, Cameroon, and from that point 
westward to Sierra Leone. Therefore, so long as comparisons are 



Wider Culture Contacts 323 

limited to Africa itself, they are instructive in showing cultural traits 
of Angola against a broader background. 

But if the inquiry is extended with a view to proving that African 
masks and costumes are derivatives from Oceania, there exists 
no acceptable evidence of generic relationship. The mere use of 
fiber skirts, of netting suits, and of bark cloth for masks, is not 
acceptable evidence for supporting a theory of derivation of African 
from Oceanic forms. 

More important than the study of forms is the psychological 
background of masks and costumes in Africa and Melanesia. In 
"Origins of Education" I made a comparison of factors included in 
the initiation of boys in Africa and Melanesia. The boys are secluded, 
circumcised, instructed, harshly treated, and after a change of name 
are reintroduced to their villages at a dance in which masks and 
costumes are used. 

Waiving the question of similarity of masks and costumes, do 
the psychological factors provide reasonable grounds for assuming 
generic relationship of initiation customs? Possibly the psychological 
setting suggests a single origin, but the matter is so largely subjective, 
that a decision cannot be made without further evidence of the 
correlation of forms, the details underlying their origin and use, 
and the establishment of a more definite and unbroken track of 
distribution. To have an intuition and a vague hypothesis is very 
different from the demonstration of a theory. Delafosse (Negroes 
of Africa, p. 3) pictures the peopling of Africa by Negro impacts 
from Asia on the east coast near Madagascar. If true, this suggestion 
would support the views of the Graebnerian school, but the theory 
is highly speculative. 

The extent to which an observer may be misled by fortuitous 
resemblances in form has been demonstrated by a number of Ameri- 
can anthropologists. Every investigator who attempts comparative 
study and classification is prone to unite concepts, customs, and 
artifacts which have only a superficial and misleading resemblance 
to one another. This failure to discriminate may be illustrated as 
follows: R. H. Lowie (Plains Indian Age-Societies, Amer. Mus. 
Nat. Hist., Anth. Papers, No. 11, pp. 883-951) has shown the 
fallacy of assuming genuine cultural resemblances between Age- 
Societies of Plains Indians, the Masai, and the Melanesians, because 
the phenomena when analyzed prove to have different psychological 
settings, and they are structurally as distinct as are their geograph- 
ical areas. 



324 The Ovimbundu 

W. D. Wallis points out the care that should be exercised in 
assessing the evidential values of culture traits. These should be 
weighted according to their simplicity or complexity, and their 
logical connection with one another (Amer. Anth., XXX, p. 94). 
The cultural factors of the Malayo-Negritan migration have not 
been considered in the manner advocated by Wallis. 

Lowie examined apparently similar cases of exogamy, but found 
that these depended on different conditions; for example, exogamy 
might depend on either clan or locality (The Principle of Convergence 
in Ethnology, Jour. Amer. Folk-lore, XXV, pp. 24-42). 

A. A. Goldenweiser shows that totemism has many social and 
psychological interpretations differing greatly according to locality. 
In order to include the many forms of totemism a broad definition 
has to be accepted. Totemism is indeed nothing more than a 
tendency of social units or individuals to become associated with 
symbols of emotional value (Totemism an Analytical Study, Jour. 
Amer. Folk-lore, XXIII). 

Lowie further emphasizes the distinctive types of totemism, in 
order to show the fallacy of linking many different concepts under 
one term, without recognizing the broad significance of the term 
(Amer. Anth., XIII, p. 189). This research shows Frobenius to be 
at fault in merely noting the presence of totemism and other traits 
without defining their forms and examining the psychological 
background. 

An article by A. L. Kroeber and C. Holt (Masks and Moieties 
as a Culture Complex, J. R.A.I. , L, p. 452) has a special bearing on 
Graebnerian views with regard to the spread of cultures. Kroeber 
set out to test the validity of the statement that North American 
culture had been affected by the east Papuan layer of the Graeb- 
nerian culture stream, which was supposed to have brought masks 
and moieties to North America. The Graebnerian method assumes 
that a culture trait never develops twice; also that instances of 
geographical isolation of a trait must be ascribed to migration and 
subsequent loss in intervening areas. The conclusion of Kroeber, 
based on statistical examination of instances of conjoint occurrence of 
the two traits, indicates that the union of masks and moieties comes 
out fortuitously. 

R. B. Dixon indicates several factors to which attention should 
be paid in making comparisons of culture traits (Science, XXXV, 
p. 46). In the first place there is the question of relationship on 
geographical and historical grounds. It is also important to know 



Wider Culture Contacts 325 

what degree of complexity there is in the artifacts and beliefs which 
are under comparison. Reason and form, that is, psychology and 
morphology, are both important aspects of comparison. The work 
so far accomplished with regard to the Malayo-Negritan theory 
of African cultural traits fails to comply with the foregoing essentials 
of comparative study. 

There is consensus of opinion against the Graebnerian hypothesis 
in its present form. E. S. Hartland reviews Graebner's "Methode 
der Ethnologie" (Man, 1914, No. 70) with the result that he finds 
Graebner too insistent on the value of forms as a criterion of generic 
relationship. In fact such a method may degenerate into pure sub- 
jectivity. F. Boas (Science, XXXIV, No. 884) takes the same point 
of view in remarking on the exclusion of the psychological field of 
inquiry; Graebner's method has a too mechanical character. 

In view of this criticism, and as a result of personal observation 
of the culture elements of Angola, I am convinced that the somato- 
logical, linguistic, and cultural data for considering the spread of the 
Malayo-Negritan culture in Africa are not sufficiently understood 
to lead to a demonstration of any kind. For instance, Portuguese 
East Africa, the hypothetical starting point of the migration, is 
by no means well studied in detail, and the problem demands that 
data relating to the supposed area of introduction should be partic- 
ularly complete. 

The same criticism relates to the farthest point of west Africa 
reached by the supposed cultural stream from Melanesia. A theory 
which aims at showing generic relationship between secret societies 
of west Africa and Oceania cannot successfully rely only on general 
resemblances of masks and the use of netting costumes. Something 
more specific than a comparison of forms of artifacts and the occur- 
rence of such ill-defined institutions as age-grades, totemism, and 
secret societies is essential in order to make the kulturkreis theory 
acceptable. 

The problem of cultural relationships between the Ovimbundu 
and other African tribes is simplified in several ways. Geographical 
continuity exists between the African areas discussed, and to a great 
extent the cultural contacts described are matters of historical fact. 
Data relating to the Ovimbundu themselves are fairly complete; 
and what is equally important, there is trustworthy literature 
bearing on the areas surrounding the Ovimbundu. Therefore, com- 
parisons do not rest on the study of a few simple forms, but on the 
cultures taken as a whole with regard to cultural traits of all kinds. 



326 The Ovimbundu 

Evidence adduced up to the present has indicated the relationship 
of cultural elements of the Ovimbundu to those of tribes immediately 
surrounding them (chapter X). 

In addition to this, the ethnological facts of the present chapter 
have made it clear that the tribal life of the Ovimbundu cannot be 
explained by confining the inquiry to immediate culture contacts. 
The Ovimbundu have without doubt drawn very widely on African 
cultural streams during the growth of their present social pattern. 
The truth of this statement has just been illustrated by reference 
to ritual connected with blacksmiths, Bantu religious beliefs, the 
Bantu social system, African puberty rites, hunting appliances, 
musical instruments, and other cultural elements. 

A consideration of the kulturkreis theory indicated that a search 
for the origins of Umbundu culture cannot profitably be extended 
to Indonesia and Melanesia. Therefore the final chapter is confined 
to a summary of types of African culture, with a view to showing 
the relationship of Umbundu culture to each of the main racial, 
linguistic, and cultural patterns that are known to have affected the 
African continent. 



XII. CULTURAL PROCESSES 
Analysis of African Cultures 

The difficulties of making a study of the Ovimbundu in their 
relation to a general background of African cultures are connected 
with unsolved problems of archaeology, physical anthropology, 
linguistic study, and the history of cultural traits. 

With the exception of data from Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, and 
south Africa there is a paucity of archaeological information which 
might determine the antiquity of past cultures, the relation of these 
to past and present races, and the routes by which races and cultures 
traveled. In the regions mentioned systematic excavations are in 
progress, but for the greater part of Africa archaeologists have no 
knowledge of the relative antiquity of stone implements found on 
the surface. 

African ethnologists are not consistent in the connotations of 
terms such as Bantu and Hamitic. The word Bantu primarily 
refers to a linguistic family of Negroes, but a Bantu Negro culture 
exists with many divisions, and later we shall see that a somato- 
logical concept is associated with the word .Bantu. The word 
Hamitic may describe a linguistic family, a series of physical traits 
differing from those which characterize the Negro, and a type of 
pastoral culture in which all the activities and beliefs of tribal life 
center in the keeping of cattle. The adjective Semitic can also 
be used to denote a well-defined linguistic family, a type of culture, 
or somatic traits. But the Semitic problem does not concern us 
since the Ovimbundu have no traits that could be associated with 
Semitic culture, either Mohammedan or pre-Koranic; with the 
possible exception of blood brotherhood by exchange of blood, and 
the use of a scapegoat (Robertson Smith, Lectures on the Religion 
of the Semites, p. 296; Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia, 
pp. 57, 61). 

The comparative studies of physical anthropologists are retarded 
by paucity of skeletal material both ancient and modern, while series 
of measurements on living subjects, especially women, are inadequate 
in relation to the great size of Africa and the complexity of the 
problems which arise from comparative study of anatomical data. 

Darwin's "Descent of Man" recognized the possibility of man's 
origin in Africa, and the recent excavations of L. S. B. Leakey in 
Kenya may finally prove that the oldest remains of Homo sapiens 

327 



328 The Ovimbundu 

are within the African continent (Stone Age Cultures of Kenya, 
Cambridge, England, 1931). H. H. Johnston concludes that the 
place of origin of the African Negro is unknown. A. C. Haddon 
(The Wandering of Peoples, p. 54) surmises that "there is reason 
to believe that all the main races reached Africa from Asia." G. Sergi 
(The Mediterranean Race, pp. 41-42) regards the Hamites as a single 
human stock, but disagrees with a theory of Asiatic origin, and 
postulates the origin of Hamites in northeast Africa. 

C. G. Seligman summarizes the views of Sergi and other writers 
respecting the origin of Hamites (Races of Africa, pp. 96-156). 
Among the eastern Hamites cranial characteristics, though variable, 
are generally convergent and are to be regarded as old variations 
of an original stock. Apart from Negro admixture the face of the 
Hamite is never prognathous. The nose is straight. The lips are 
often thick but never everted as in the Negro. The hair is often 
frizzly, but sometimes wavy or almost straight. The color of the 
skin varies; it may be yellowish, coppery red-brown, through every 
shade of brown to black, according to the amount of miscegenation 
that has taken place. Seligman states "that the Hamitic cradleland 
is generally agreed to be Asiatic, perhaps southern Arabia, or possibly 
an area farther east. Be this as it may, there is no doubt that the 
Hamites and Semites must be regarded as modifications of an 
original stock" (Some Aspects of the Hamitic Problem in the Anglo- 
Egyptian Sudan, J. R.A.I. , XLIII, pp. 593-705). 

As a result of research in the north Arabian desert Henry Field 
states that the stony desert between Transjordania and the Euphrates 
River was probably well watered and fertile at an unknown period. 
The locality may have been a focus, first of concentration, then of 
dispersal. Archaeological evidence arising from a comparative 
study of stone implements from Arabia and east Africa, together 
with data of physical anthropology, and the basic unity of Semitic 
and Hamitic languages support a theory of Hamitic intrusion from 
Asia (H. Field, The Cradle of Homo Sapiens, Amer. Jour. Arch., 
XXXVI, No. 4, pp. 426-430; The Antiquity of Man in Southwestern 
Asia, Amer. Anth., XXXV, pp. 51-62). 

Although the origin of Hamites and Negroes is obscure it has 
been possible to give a summary of the chief physical traits of the 
former, and the same can be done for the latter. Typical Sudanic- 
speaking Negroes, who are sometimes referred to as "true Negroes,!' 
are to be seen in the Ibo and Ijaw tribes of southern Nigeria, and 
among the Kru of Liberia. The characteristics of the Negro are a 



Cultural Processes 329 

heavy torso, disproportionately long arms, a dark skin, prognathous 
jaws, broad nostrils, thick everted lips, and woolly hair. But usually 
a modification of these features occurs in Bantu-speaking Negroes. 
How did this modification of physique arise? 

A. C. Haddon (Wandering of Peoples, p. 54) expresses a generally 
accepted view when he states that Bantu-speaking Negroes are 
a mixture of true Negroes with Hamites. Seligman (Races of 
Africa, p. 181) refers to an infusion of Hamitic blood which has 
differentiated the Bantu Negroes from true Negroes, and this is a 
generally accepted hypothesis. But Torday (H. Spencer, Descrip- 
tive Sociology of African Races, preface, p. iii) questions whether 
the physical and linguistic cleavage between Bantu-speaking and 
Sudanic-speaking Negroes is due to an admixture of Hamitic blood. 
He attributes the physical differences of the two great linguistic 
divisions of Negroes to disparity of environmental conditions. But 
at present no physical anthropologist could say to what extent 
climatic factors, nutrition, and other environmental conditions can 
be held responsible for the physical differences of Negroes. 

The question of a mingling of Hamite and true Negro to produce 
a modified type of Negro is not the only difficulty. How does one 
account for aberrant Negroid types such as the Pygmies of the 
Ituri forest and the Bushmen? They have a phylogenetic relation- 
ship, but what is the racial affinity? Again, will change of environ- 
mental conditions account for the Pygmy and Bushman types? 
Or are we to form a hypothesis of origins by assuming establishment 
of new species by variation or mutation? 

In the absence of certain knowledge science accepts a hypothesis 
which best explains the known facts. And in this matter of a modified 
Negro type speaking Bantu languages, the idea of a mingling of the 
blood of Negroes and Hamites best explains the gradation of physical 
types from west African, Sudanic-speaking Negroes, through various 
types of Bantu Negroes, to Hamites, as exemplified by the Somali, 
Beja, and Hadendoa. 

The main characters of linguistic families of Africa are clearly 
defined by A. Werner (Language Families of Africa, pp. 20-23) 
who refers to the works of D. Westermann and C. Meinhof. The 
distinguishing features of Hamitic, Semitic, Bantu, Sudanic, and 
Bushman speech are known, yet the task of placing a particular 
language in its appropriate family is not always simple. The classi- 
fication may depend on the particular facet of the language which 
is under examination. Hausa (Hamitic), is difficult to classify 



330 The Ovimbundu 

since the language has Sudanic and Hamitic elements with some 
Semitic roots. The earliest relationships of African linguistic 
families, for instance Hamitic and Semitic, also Sudanic, Bantu, 
and Bushman, is a field for further research. To take only one 
instance of complexity, Bantu is divided into more than two hundred 
languages and innumerable dialects, whose origin, structure, and 
evolution have been treated by C. Meinhof (Introduction to the 
Phonology of the Bantu Languages, London, 1932; a translation, by 
A. Werner and N. J. von Warmelo, of Meinhof s Grundriss eine 
Lautlehre der Bantusprachen). 

In conclusion of this summary of the background of African 
history, there arises the difficulty of ascribing to each of the races 
those cultural elements for which the race is responsible, either by 
primary invention within Africa, or by introduction from some source 
outside Africa. The difficulty may be illustrated by quotations 
relating to the iron industry of African Negroes. Rival theories claim 
origin of the craft in Asia, in Egypt, and among African Negroes 
themselves. 

Seligman (Races of Africa, p. 158) states, "We may believe that 
the Negro, who is now an excellent iron worker, learnt this art from 
the Hamite." Torday writes (H. Spencer, Descriptive Sociology 
of African Races, preface, p. iii), "To state that Bantu civilization — 
or any civilization whatever — is due to the ancestors of such abso- 
lutely primitive tribes as the Hadendoa and Beja (identified by 
some with the enigmatic Hamites) presupposes that these people 
who were ignorant of agriculture, or the production of iron, and of 
all arts and crafts denoting a higher culture, who, as we know, have 
not progressed a step within the past five hundred years and con- 
sidered all manual labor degrading, had the power to give that which 
they never possessed." 

The complexity of argument relating to the origin of just one 
cultural trait, iron-working, can be judged by consulting the writings 
of W. Gowland (The Metals in Antiquity, J.R.A.I., XLII, pp. 235- 
287), W. M. F. Petrie (The Arts and Crafts of Ancient Egypt), 
W. Belck (Die Erfinder der Eisentechnik, Zeitsch. Ethn., XXXIX, pp. 
335-381; XL, pp. 45-69; XLII, pp. 15-30), and F. Luschan (Eisen- 
technik in Afrika, ibid., XLI, pp. 23-59). 

Even with these reservations and disputed points in mind, it is 
yet possible to speculate with some accuracy respecting the origin 
and assembly of traits which, welded together, form the culture 
of the Ovimbundu. 



Cultural Processes 331 

Assembling of Traits 

The data which have been assembled in relation to the Ovim- 
bundu, if considered in conjunction with the analysis of African 
cultures made in the foregoing chapter, lead to the following historical 
reconstruction. 

When somatic traits of the Ovimbundu are considered it is clear 
that the general type is removed from that of true Negroes. Among 
the Ovimbundu are persons of a slender, brown-skinned type, with 
some refinement of lips and nasal width; while other persons possess 
the opposites of these features, but in no instance as intensely as do 
true Negroes. I accept the view of physical admixture of Hamites 
with true Negroes and believe that types like the Ovimbundu and 
the Vakuanyama have resulted from infusion of Hamitic blood which 
has modified Negro somatic traits in the way mentioned. 

Linguistically the Ovimbundu have a pure form of Bantu speech. 
The Umbundu language is tonal, but there are few semantic words 
whose meaning depends on a high, middle, or low tone. Probably 
Umbundu should be classified with the southwestern Bantu lan- 
guages, but further research may show that on structural grounds 
Umbundu has to be accorded an intermediate position between the 
southwestern and the central Bantu languages. Study of vocabulary 
definitely links Umbundu with the Ukuanyama language of the 
southwestern Bantu group, but conclusions based on comparison 
of vocabularies are hazardous because of the dissemination of 
Umbundu words by extensive caravan trade of the Ovimbundu. 
We may therefore be dealing with loan words and not with bifurca- 
tion from the same matrix. 

When comparing the social pattern of the Ovimbundu with that 
of other African tribes the following elements of culture should be 
borne in mind. 

(1) Traits associated with an archaic hunting culture. 

(2) Factors typical of the culture of Negroes, both Bantu and 
Sudanic. 

(3) Cultural traits from pastoral tribes of south and southwest 
Angola. These tribes speak Bantu languages but have somatic 
traits which are Hamitic, while their culture exhibits some main 
features of the Hamitic pastoral pattern. 

Among the earliest elements of Umbundu culture would probably 
be the traits of hunting and food-gathering. The antiquity of hunting 
has been indicated by considering the wide distribution of appliances 



332 The Ovimbundu 

of like kind. Furthermore, the details of ritual connected with the 
hunter's occupation, and the survival of these to the present day, 
tend to show that hunting was not a trait of late introduction. A 
people who adopted hunting when in an advanced state of their 
cultural history would not invent an elaborate ritual which is still 
connected with the initiation of young hunters, ancestor worship, 
and special modes of burial. Moreover, the Ovimbundu are pri- 
marily an agricultural people; therefore it is unlikely that at a late 
date in their cultural development they would take over hunting 
and its ritual as a means of augmenting their food supply. I con- 
clude, therefore, that the elements of a hunting culture are ancient 
and fundamental. 

To the archaic elements of hunting and food-gathering should 
perhaps be added the use of the musical bow, the bull-roarer, and 
the making of fire by twirling. The bull-roarer is an object associated 
with important ceremonies among many African and other tribes 
of the present day, though among the Ovimbundu the instrument 
is used only as a toy. This is probably a degradation of function 
associated with the known disappearance of initiation ceremonies. 
Making of fire by twirling is now of importance only as a ceremonial 
method of creating new fire at the time of building a village, during 
epidemics, and after the death of a king. But formerly the twirling 
method was the only means of ignition. 

The most important cultural traits of the Ovimbundu are those 
which they possess in common with Negroes who speak Bantu 
languages. Most of the traits mentioned here as characteristic of 
the Bantu are also to be found among the Sudanic Negroes of 
west Africa. 

Negro cultural traits which are or were prominent in the tribal 
life of the Ovimbundu are as follows: 

Tooth mutilation and scarification of the body. 

Blood brotherhood by exchange of blood. 

Hoe cultivation by women. 

Classificatory system of kinship terms and cross-cousin marriage. 

A system of succession, inheritance, and family government in 
which the maternal uncle plays an important part. 

Tribal government under a well-coordinated political system in 
which kings and village chiefs are of paramount importance. 

Slavery as an economic institution. 

Ritualistic slaughter and eating of slaves at the death of a king. 



Cultural Processes 333 

Tribal initiation for boys with use of masks, netting costumes, 
seclusion, circumcision, harsh treatment, change of name, and 
re-introduction into society. 

The poison ordeal of general Negro type. 

Religious ideas of a supreme being, Suku, Nzambi, or Kalunga, 
who is thought of as a creator. He is, however, far removed from all 
tribal affairs, and there is no sacrifice or appeal to him. 

An active ancestor worship with good and bad spirits who require 
sacrifice and recognition by supplication through the agency of a 
medicine-man. Use of wooden figures in connection with this appeal 
to spirits. Great importance of the spirits of kings as arbiters in 
matters of tribal welfare. 

Importance of medicine-men in conducting trial by ordeal, making 
rain, healing the sick, and consulting ancestral spirits by divination 
and the use of wooden images in which "medicine" is placed. 

Methods of fishing with poisons and conical fish traps. 

The technique and ritual of the blacksmith's craft. 

Wood-carving which particularly resembles that of the south- 
west Congo region. 

Making of bark cloth. 

Types of musical instruments, including the friction drum, the 
marimba, tubular drums, flat drums, metal-keyed instruments, and 
many other forms which are typical of Negro culture, particularly 
that of the southwest Congo. 

Weaving on a loom of central African type (now obsolete). 

Coiled basketry and pottery. 

The foregoing elements are associated to form the cultural pattern 
of the Ovimbundu. All these traits are characteristic of Bantu and 
Sudanic Negro culture in general. Therefore the Ovimbundu are 
most closely allied with Negroes, from the cultural point of view. 

The elements taken by the Ovimbundu from pastoral tribes, 
whose culture has invaded east and south Africa, are: 

Cattle and the social values attached to these, together with 
ceremonial rites which are characteristic of pastoral cultures. Such 
rites include burial of kings in oxhide, and the killing of oxen at the 
funeral feast; also the mounting of horns over the grave, and use of 
sacred fire. 

Ideas of succession in the male line, whereby kingship passes to 
the eldest son of the principal wife, are more characteristic of pastoral 
than Negro systems. 



334 The Ovimbundu 

From the pastoral tribes of southern Angola the Ovimbundu 
have adopted a peculiar type of assagai, a throwing club, and sandals. 

Primarily the culture of the Ovimbundu is that of African Negroes 
with persistence of traits that have survived, possibly from a pre- 
Negro culture, which depended entirely upon food-gathering and 
hunting. Grafted on these traits are important elements from a 
pastoral culture which is generally conceded to be Hamitic. 

European contacts led to the introduction of maize, manioc, 
sweet potatoes, and peanuts, so stimulating the indigenous hoe 
culture. This agricultural life was further encouraged by settlement 
in the Benguela Highlands, where temperature, rainfall, and open 
spaces favored a great expansion of agricultural pursuits, especially 
the growth of maize and beans. 

Early contact with the Portuguese led to an encouragement 
of trade. Guns and powder, together with other European goods, 
were received in exchange for ivory and slaves. An increase in the sup- 
ply of slaves led to changes in the social life, whereby the Ovimbundu 
gained more time and opportunity for extensive raiding and trading, 
by which means their wealth was further increased. 

As time progressed, the nature of the contact with the Portuguese 
changed. Instead of alliances made on a commercial basis, the 
Portuguese gradually assumed control, the results of which are now 
distinctly felt in the disintegration of Umbundu tribal life. 

The data supplied by personal field work, supported by a perusal 
of ethnological literature, suggest the foregoing summary as the 
briefest possible outline of the history of the Ovimbundu, the growth 
of their culture, and the nature of traits that have been welded 
together. 

Cultural losses will now be considered, and in the final pages 
an explanation will be given of the way in which traits derived from 
various sources are associated to form a workable tribal system. 

Cultural Losses 

The loom and the conical furnace for smelting iron have disap- 
peared in recent times because of the increasing importation of 
foreign cloth and the greater facility for obtaining scrap iron. Bark 
cloth, except in eastern Angola, is no longer made because traders 
are distributing European goods. For the same reason wooden hair- 
combs are going out of use. Drum signaling has declined with the 
disappearance of warfare, and for the same reason the double iron 
gong is rare. 



Cultural Processes 335 

The Ovimbundu have lost any ideas that they may have had 
concerning sentimental relationships between men and animals. I 
know of no belief in animal helpers, and of no divisions of people 
with an animal or a plant as their emblem. The only idea of rein- 
carnation was expressed in the instance of a spirit, neglected in 
sacrifice, prowling near the village in the form of a lion or a leopard. 

There has been a total absence of the shield for so long that 
no one was able to describe it. Old men state that the Ovimbundu 
used to have a shield; probably this information is correct, as 
the shield is commonly used in the Congo region. The Ovimbundu 
use the bow, spear, and throwing-club; no doubt a fourth item 
of equipment was more than a man could conveniently manage. 
Furthermore, individuals who obtained guns and powder would 
naturally discard other weapons. 

Originally the Ovimbundu were cannibals. The Vasele, a 
sequestered Umbundu-speaking people, were definitely known to be 
practising cannibalism in 1865 (Monteiro, vol. II, p. 157). The early 
writers, Battell, Merolla, and Cavazzi, mention cannibalism in 
northern Angola; undoubtedly slaves were killed and eaten at the 
accession of a king until late in the nineteenth century. From 
Bailundu a spear formerly used for thrusting into the side of a 
slave, then into the side of an ox, was obtained. The flesh was cooked 
and eaten before a warlike expedition. Among objects from the 
Esele country is an ax formerly used for beheading slaves at the ac- 
cession of a new king. These objects, collected in 1929, and described 
on page 277, are survivals of defunct traits. 

Kingship, warfare, slavery, and cannibalism constitute an allied 
group of factors which are here mentioned in the order of their 
importance. European contacts have discouraged all these traits. 
Portuguese authority has gradually usurped the jurisdiction of native 
kings, and at the same time has discouraged intertribal warfare. 
With the decline of warfare the capture of slaves became obsolete. 
In addition to the discouragement of cannibalism by direct legisla- 
tion, the decline of slavery has tended to make cannibalism fall 
into desuetude, because slaves were always the victims for ceremonial 
cannibal feasts. 

The present attenuated distribution and form of puberty rites 
for Ovimbundu boys may be accounted for as follows: During the 
period of desultory warfare in northern Angola (1600-1800), cere- 
monies, which in Africa are usually associated with sedentary life, 
must have suffered interruption and curtailment. Such ceremonies 



336 The Ovimbundu 

are typically allied, so far as Africa is concerned, with a forest 
culture with its sacred groves and facilities for seclusion during a 
period of three months or longer. Such a condition was lacking in 
the Benguela Highlands, which are sparsely wooded in comparison 
with the more northern tropical areas of Angola. 

When the Ovimbundu settled in the highlands, warfare and 
distant caravan trade were factors that would tend further to 
disintegrate elaborate ceremonies requiring several months for their 
completion. As a supplement to these reasons for decline, there is 
the effect of European disapproval, and in some localities positive 
prohibition. 

In addition to traits that have blended and those that have 
become obsolete, there arises the question of opportunities which 
have been neglected in the course of cultural growth. 

The Ovimbundu, with local exceptions, do not use the milk 
or flesh of cattle, neither is the milk of goats utilized; vegetable 
food forms a large proportion of the diet. 

The papaya (papaw) and the banana are not cultivated to any 
great extent by the natives. The raffia palm grows well in some 
parts of the Benguela Highlands, but the Ovimbundu do not use 
the fiber for anything except ropes. They have no raffia weaving 
such as is found in the Congo region. 

Failure to utilize these vegetable products has to some extent 
a rational basis. The fruit of the papaya could never be more than 
an addition to the already generous vegetable diet, as it is unsuitable 
for consumption in large quantities owing to laxative properties; 
neither has it the food value and the marketable possibility of maize. 
The banana will grow at a height of 3,000 feet in the Benguela 
Highlands, but attention is required. Nights are cold, hence some 
naturally screened site should be selected. During the dry season 
the roots should be protected against too rapid evaporation, but 
this careful attention is foreign to native methods of agriculture. 
Use of raffia is discouraged by the presence of trade cloth and easy 
access to locally grown cotton, which is made into thread. 

To account for the failure to use the milk and flesh of cattle 
is not easy, neither is the neglect of goat's milk readily explicable. 
Neglect of these foods is due to prejudice and conservatism, of 
which there are many examples in Africa. For instance, Hamitic 
tribes, of whom the Bahima are typical, avoid all vegetable food. 
Milk is their staple diet, and vegetable foods are regarded as 
positively unclean. 



Cultural Processes 337 

Cattle-keepers of southern Angola make butter in calabash 
churns which are gently swung on a pole. The Ovimbundu have 
taken cattle from the south and west, but have not adopted dairy 
products. The cattle of the Ovimbundu are valued as a standard 
of wealth; have great purchasing power; are used to pay taxes and 
fines; and, in addition to these social and economic values, are the 
most important sacrificial animals. This is an instance of the 
arbitrary selection of some traits of a culture complex, while other 
factors, even those of economic importance, are ignored. 

Cultural losses, and failures to utilize factors which were accessible 
are, according to the foregoing examples, due to change of habitat 
from northern Angola to the Benguela Highlands; European con- 
tacts; long-established agricultural habit; and conservatism, which 
to some extent is a characteristic of tribes at all cultural levels. 

Integration of Traits 

A study which is concerned with growth of culture, demands more 
than a historical, geographical, and mechanistic interpretation. 
Morphological and historical research assists in tracing origins and 
in forming hypotheses respecting the order in which the traits were 
brought together. But such inquiries are static rather than dynamic, 
and they are a necessary prelude to anthropological work rather 
than an ultimate aim. 

To the methods of research already followed there should be 
added a psychological approach with the object of showing the way 
in which various elements of culture are blended and are made 
to function. 

The following pages illustrate the way in which a field investiga- 
tion is brought into contact with the welding of cultural elements, 
and the examples chosen call attention to principles that are respon- 
sible for the process of integration. This assimilation of cultural 
elements renders the study of an isolated trait impossible, as the 
following instances indicate. These illustrations are chosen from 
field notes, and are grouped in such a way as to emphasize the 
pivotal elements of Umbundu culture around which minor traits 
revolve. 

Some of the examples given are intended to illustrate a relation- 
ship between language (which includes folklore, proverbs, and 
riddles) and nature knowledge. The latter is closely connected 
with hunting, food-gathering, and the selection of materials for 
handwork. 



338 The Ovimbundu 

The inquiry then turns to occupations which indicate that sex 
dichotomy of labor is a fundamental principle of tribal life. In 
connection with the details of food supply and occupation, ritual 
acts are prominent, and in association with these the functions of 
the medicine-man are important. 

Cultural liaisons are again illustrated when studying domestic 
animals, for this inquiry leads to a consideration of the social and 
economic importance of cattle, which are used in ritual connected 
with the death and burial of kings. 

These are but a few instances indicating the way in which lines 
of investigation converge, though they may appear to be distinct. 
In fact the very division of a monograph into chapters is misleading 
in its suggestion of distinct divisions of tribal life, whose parts are 
actually a psychological unity. 

When accompanying boys and men during their food-collecting 
and hunting expeditions a wealth of nature lore and a richness of 
vocabulary were discovered, and a vocabulary of one hundred 
and thirty words comprising names of birds, reptiles, mammals, 
and plants was prepared. Species are carefully distinguished, 
to such a degree that discussions respecting the correct native 
names for similar species tend to be prolonged and humorous. 

When I realized the closeness with which the native observes 
the habits of animals, there was no difficulty in understanding why 
folklore stories of animals are so popular and so amusing in their 
descriptions of animal behavior. In addition to its associations 
with nature study, folklore reveals standards of conduct and pro- 
cesses of rationalization. 

In collecting names of birds and their cries, and while recording 
hunting customs, I was informed of the bird Onjimbi which flies 
at night to give the sound of death to those who will not see the 
morning. Then there is a nocturnal bird called Esuvi which is able 
to catch spirits of the dead who are active at night. A spirit so caught 
dies a second death, but what this means I could not immediately 
discover. Later a man said he was sick because Esuvi had 
caught the spirit of his grandfather. This implies the belief that an 
ancestral spirit is a guardian whose function ends when a second 
death is experienced. 

Study of natural history sometimes leads to a point of importance 
in social procedure. There is a bird Onduva whose feathers are 
used for decorating the head of a dead king and for embellishing the 
person of a medicine-man; the feathers may not be used in any other 



Cultural Processes 339 

way. Such instances as these came to light when my primary inten- 
tion was a study of the use of wooden arrows for killing birds. 

An inquiry about the names of trees and the use of timbers led 
to the topic of making and using wooden figures for magical purposes. 
Woodcraft, wood-carving, and religion are associated. 

There is no fallacy so great as that of supposing that data may 
be collected and retained in mutually exclusive divisions. For 
example, a study of proverbs leads to native ideas concerning govern- 
ment, succession to office, and standards of conduct. The Ovim- 
bundu say, "A turtle cannot climb on a tree stump, some one has 
to place it there." What is the meaning of this proverb? There 
are some men who occupy positions for which they have no ability; 
such men have been chosen through influence. The normal successor 
to chieftainship and kingship is the eldest son of the deceased man's 
principal wife, but if this rightful successor is stupid, some other son 
will be chosen. Yet the foolish youth may have friends who see 
their own advantage in having a weak ruler; they therefore combine 
to place him in office. The turtle has been placed on the tree stump, 
since it could not climb there. 

In addition, folklore shows projection of the mentality of human 
beings into the lives of animals. Bird cries, with their supposed 
calls and answers, indicate that the birds have their family relation- 
ships involving strife, love, jealousy, and generosity. To the Ovim- 
bundu, birds are a feathered human community. 

Proverbs reveal a philosophy which is expressed by the German 
Weltanschauung. "If you are full of food, do not climb on a leopard's 
back; the leopard may be hungry." This means that one should 
not be foolishly exalted through good fortune. "You cannot tie a 
buck's head in a cloth; the horns will stick out," expresses the idea 
that crime cannot be concealed. "Hot water does not burn a house, 
and cold water does not make mush," is a sarcastic reply to one who 
boasts of things he cannot do. A riddle may express a philosophical 
train of thought. "What is it that lives while it dies and dies while 
it lives?" This is the log of wood the end of which is from time to 
time pushed farther into the fire. Like a human life, the log is being 
slowly consumed while yet living. Such examples as these call 
attention to a welding of thought, language, nature lore, and ideas 
that regulate conduct. 

In considering food supply and occupations, division of labor 
on a sex basis is clear. Social sanctions have determined the appro- 



340 The Ovimbundu 

priateness of certain tasks for males and females respectively, and 
individuals reflect these attitudes in their ideas and conduct. 

My interpreter and others who were questioned laughed at the 
idea that men and women might interchange their occupations in 
the course of house-building. A woman collects wood for fuel, but 
not for house-building. Structural work is in the hands of men 
who dig the foundations, erect the poles, tie the crosspieces and add 
the roof. Women carry water for mixing the clay which is puddled 
by children; men, women, and children apply wet clay to the wattle 
walls. "Suppose a man should carry water?" I asked. "He would 
be laughed at and people would say that he was a he-woman," 
came the ready answer. 

Women invariably make pottery among the Ovimbundu, but 
this is not always so in Negro tribes. Women of the Ovimbundu are 
likewise basket-makers, but they do not make mats, for this occupa- 
tion is considered suitable for men only. Only women pound corn; 
before daybreak the heavy wooden pestles are at work and until 
sunset the rocks reserved for this operation are the centers of female 
activity, which includes singing and gossip. Only men herd cattle 
and only males are hunters. Women and children are the collectors of 
wild fruits and caterpillars, but only men take honey from the hives. 

Agriculture and the preparation of food are entirely in the hands 
of the women. Men never eat with women; the latter have to carry 
the prepared food to the men's communal house in the middle of 
the village. Both men and women catch fish, but there are methods 
appropriate for each sex. There is a sex-division of labor without 
any implication of the inferiority of women. 

Occupations cannot be studied merely in a formal way, for, 
although the tasks are performed every day, a ceremonial element 
is involved. A clay pit is consecrated by the killing of a fowl; so also 
is the rock which is used as a base for pounding grain. The young 
blacksmith is initiated after two years of apprenticeship. On this 
occasion a dog is killed with the hammer which the master made 
for his pupil and the blood of the sacrificed animal is sprinkled on 
the tools. The remainder of the ritual and belief has been described 
in connection with occupations of the Ovimbundu. Study of the 
blacksmith's work was begun as research in technology; but failure 
to purchase the large hammer, even for a tempting sum, led to the 
discovery of considerable ritual. 

Abstention from sexual relationships is enjoined on men and 
women who are going fishing. That copulation would induce the 



Cultural Processes 341 

fish to stay together at the bottom of the river, is the reason alleged 
for this taboo. A young hunter is ceremonially initiated. Through- 
out his life he has to make sacrifice to the ancestral spirits of hunters 
who are in the house where bows of famous hunters are kept; these 
ceremonies must be performed before a hunter leaves for the chase. 
A caravan is a commercial undertaking, but, before setting out, 
the head of a dead chief is asked for a guarantee of success; mean- 
while a sacrifice is made by a medicine-man. A wooden image, 
when consulted by the medicine-man, indicates the correct caravan 
route. These instances illustrate a blending of the sacred and the 
profane in occupations. 

Sexual relationships among the Ovimbundu form a basis of social 
life, as they do in all communities, but the sexual aspect is not all- 
pervading and completely dominant. 

In early years children separate during play. Boys play games 
of hunting and warfare, enter into competition with bows and arrows, 
or amuse themselves with wood-carving. Girls find amusement in 
imitating their mothers in the occupations of making pottery and 
baskets, and in cultivating the fields. The small sums of money 
which a girl derives from the sale of produce from her own corn 
patch are personal property which she usually spends on trinkets 
and palm oil. This measure of economic independence, combined 
with considerable freedom of choice in marriage, indicates an 
individuality that has not been generally recognized. 

I have mentioned among the Ovimbundu a system of friendship 
between boys and girls of from twelve to sixteen years, which permits 
the children to sleep together in the home of one of the girls in 
whose house the early evening has been spent. Cohabitation is 
forbidden, and pregnancy would be a disgrace. The practice is 
not unlike that of night visits by a lover in certain European countries 
during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (W. Goodsell, 
A History of the Family as a Social and Educational Institution, 
p. 365). Clearly sex is a factor that plays its part as a formative 
influence from infancy onward, until final emphasis of sex dichotomy 
is made by tribal initiations. 

The social position of woman may be considered by selecting a 
few points from the data relating to courtship, marriage, and divorce. 
Marriages are sometimes arranged during infancy, but this does not 
invalidate the previous statement that considerable freedom of choice 
is allowed; a girl is not compelled to follow arrangements made during 
her childhood. A bride has to make contributions toward the 



342 The Ovimbundu 

domestic equipment. Ritual enters into the introduction of the 
bride to her home, as was shown by explaining the functions of three 
elderly women, who erect the fireplace, bring new fire from the chief's 
house, and assist the bride in a ceremonial way. If a husband has 
reason to doubt the virginity of his bride, he bores a hole in her 
cloth with a firebrand, and makes her carry the cloth to her parents. 
But the marriage is not necessarily invalidated, since the husband 
is reconciled by a return of some portion of his gifts to the parents. 

Some light is thrown on the ethics of family life by considering 
the meeting which takes place in the men's council house (onjango) 
before the bride goes to her new home. Here in the presence of rela- 
tives from both families the father of the bride says, "We are taking 
these things for our daughter, we hope she will not shame us." He 
turns to his daughter, enjoining her to be hospitable, never forgetting 
to feed her husband's people when they call. 

Minor incidents help in a study of the psychology of family life. 
When husband and wife have quarreled, the latter goes away for a 
few hours into the bush and arranges that a number of burrs shall 
be clinging to her dress when she returns. If her husband silently 
and spontaneously picks these from her cloth, amicable feeling 
is restored. 

Analysis of the grounds for divorce shows that women have 
their rights, though the male is in the more favorable position. In 
Rome the legal rights of a matron were slender, but in actual practice 
she held an important and honorable position. Similarly the status 
of an Ocimbundu woman is higher than the divorce laws imply. 

The human side of family differences was well brought out by 
studying the interference and indirect influence of relatives on the 
relationship of husband and wife. Details have been given indicating 
that divorce is not entirely a matter of adjustment between families; 
the village chief may be called upon to act as arbiter. The final 
ceremony of repudiation, at which the husband slaps his wife's back 
saying, "It is finished," is a public rite. There is here a close con- 
nection between family consent and public ratification. 

Although a woman may return to her parents under certain con- 
ditions which justify the divorce of the husband, parents are not 
anxious to encourage this practice. Marriage tokens would have 
to be returned to the husband of their daughter; moreover there 
might be a difficulty in securing another husband. In this instance 
a conflict occurs between parental obligations and cupidity. This 
is again shown by the argument which always arises respecting 



Cultural Processes 343 

the custody of a widow. The father, the brother, or the maternal 
uncle of the widow may take her. In the words of my interpreter, 
each says, "It is better that you should take her," and at last someone 
says, "I will take her." 

A chief of Ngalangi revealed the most important aspect of 
polygyny when he apologized for the fact that only five of his eleven 
wives were present. The chief was anxious to emphasize the fact 
that he had eleven wives, though six were at work in the fields. 

When one considers the prestige of village chiefs, and further 
reflects on the desirability of maintaining this power within family 
groups, the institution of polygyny becomes more understandable. 
In addition there is the necessity of having women to cultivate the 
fields. A polygynous system does not necessarily cause domestic 
conflict, because each wife has her own hut, fireplace, and utensils. 
Custom obliges a chief to spend four nights in each hut in regular 
sequence. 

A first and principal wife is not offended by the introduction of 
other wives, for these reduce her own labor and announce the fact 
that she is the principal wife of a wealthy man. When photographing 
the king of Ngalangi with his wives, I observed that he sent the 
principal wife from the group in order to adorn herself with a piece 
of cloth whose value was greater than that of the clothing worn by 
any of the others. Among the Vakuanyama it was noticeable that 
the principal wife wore a head-dress of clay with five horns; and in 
addition to this she had costly necklaces of ostrich-eggshell beads, 
also more of the coveted omba shells than were allowed to other wives. 
In this way the prestige of the first or great wife is preserved. 

The persistence of custom, the force of education through 
suggestion in early years, and the power of social attitudes, are 
well illustrated by the survival of kinship terms and the classificatory 
system of relationships, with its marriage prohibitions and sanctions 
of an arbitrary kind. The strength of the mores and the fundamental 
nature of this system of relationship in determining marriage, descent, 
succession, and inheritance, are indicated by the fact that the 
system is unaltered after three centuries of contact with Europeans. 

The rights of a mother's brother extend so far as a sale of his 
sister's children to redeem his own debts; and reciprocally he is 
responsible for the conduct of his sister's children, even to the extent 
of paying fines for the thefts they may commit. This prerogative and 
responsibility of the maternal uncle is fundamental, and around the 
trait cluster points of law and legal procedure. 



344 The Ovimbundu 

Ethnologists have often emphasized the supposed subjection of 
the individuals to the group. Initiation rites do tend to uniformity 
of conduct and group control; yet among the Ovimbundu there are 
renowned leaders of caravans, chiefs who are respected because of 
their justice and intelligence, also medicine-men, craftsmen, and 
musicians who display great individuality. Their self-expression 
in tribal life results from special aptitude and natural force of 
character, which qualities are made evident by daily actions, or 
through loquacity in the council house. In several localities live 
chiefs, who, by personality and tact, make possible a social adjustment 
between the indigenous culture and foreign intruders. 

In former times kings were at the head of the legal and military 
systems, and in this capacity they acted when appeals were made 
from the jurisdiction of village chiefs. Prosperity of the country is 
today thought to center in kings both living and dead, and the extant 
ritual associated with the obsequies of a king is an illustration of 
this dependence. The importance of the medicine-man as a diviner, 
physician, and rain-maker is little diminished even at the present day. 

The operation of village communism and the manner in which this 
centers about persons of importance is seen during the preparation 
of a new site for a village. A description has been given relating to 
the selection of the site, employment of communal labor, the creation 
and distribution of new fire, and the function of the medicine-man 
on this occasion. 

Direct questioning concerning spiritual beliefs and the nature of 
a supreme being elicits little information, and that of a contradictory 
kind. As usual, actions are more important than statements. At 
a funeral, women dance, clap hands, and sing, "God has cheated us 
of a life." The inference seems to be that Suku gives and determines 
life. Beliefs respecting the good and bad spirits (Olosande and 
Olondele) are deeply ingrained in the lives of the Ovimbundu, who 
are confident of the need for placation of spirits by sacrifice, the 
use of wooden figurines, and the aid of the medicine-man. A study of 
the contents of a diviner's basket gives a clear idea of the powers 
and the activities of spirits; and the function of a spirit, which is 
able to hear and answer the living, is understood after observing 
the questioning of the corpse at a funeral. Without doubt, a belief 
in spirits and a reliance on the power of medicine-men are two of 
the fundamental ideas which permeate every thought and activity 
of the Ovimbundu, for by these agencies mundane matters are 
raised to a spiritual level. 



Cultural Processes 345 

I cannot find in the life of the Ovimbundu anything to support 
the opinion of W. C. Willoughby. This writer sees in the soul of 
every race an instinct for god that tells upon behavior, an upward 
urge that makes for betterment, due to the unwearied play of the 
spirit of god on the souls of man. The views of E. Torday and R. J. 
van Wing (Dualism in Western Bantu Religion and Social Organiza- 
tion, J.R.A.I., XLVIII, p. 225) seem to be more applicable to the 
spiritual beliefs of the Ovimbundu. 

The Ovimbundu have standards of conduct, codes of laws, crimes, 
and punishments. In addition to the ekandu (antisocial acts) 
already noted, ohembi is a liar, okusapa means to be greedy, and 
such actions are deprecated; but there is no deistic injunction 
toward the virtues of truthfulness, hospitality, and fair dealing. 

Standards of conduct and social values are preserved by the 
educational forces previously mentioned (chapter VII), and in addi- 
tion to these there are such controls as trial by ordeal, and divination 
to detect guilt. The satirical song is also a form of correction, though 
its application may be antisocial, for instance in taunting the 
sexually impotent. 

Music and dancing are adjuncts for the preservation of social 
customs and the stimulation of collective emotions on which coopera- 
tion depends. Music and dancing are also aids to magical practices. 
For example, a friction drum is played while a medicine-man carries 
out his divination with the basket, and vigorous drumming takes 
place during treatment of the sick. Music and dancing were again 
seen to be of importance at a funeral ceremony. 

These instances, which are chosen from many of like kind reported 
in the foregoing chapters, serve to indicate an interrelationship 
among the main aspects of tribal life. I have endeavored to choose 
from personal experience those facts and incidents which illustrate 
the mutual dependence of language, folklore, proverbs, nature lore, 
food supply, and occupations. 

The sexual division of labor, the connection of ceremonial with 
occupation, the relationship of the sexes, and the position of woman, 
have all been brought forward as examples of social controls. 

The persistence of belief and custom despite foreign influences; 
the nature of government, including the psychology of prestige and 
leadership; spiritual beliefs; the training of children; and the value 
of music and dancing, have likewise been emphasized as coordinating 



346 The Ovimbundu 

principles among the religious, social, and economic aspects of 
tribal life. 

In searching for some monism which integrates tribal thought 
and conduct, I would emphasize the relationship between the sacred 
and profane. The former is derived from the latter by ritual acts 
which are frequently, but not exclusively, connected with the 
medicine-man and spirits of the dead. These departed spirits do 
not sever their connection with the living. On the contrary, they 
are concerned with the affairs of men, which they handle benevolently 
or malevolently according to caprice. 

Attention has been called to the importance of fire when cere- 
monially kindled and distributed; this is but a single instance of 
the sacred use of an everyday commodity. A woman's belt is an 
ordinary item of clothing, but it may be something more important. 
A woman who is the mother of girls only, exchanges belts with the 
mother of boys only, and in future the mother of female children 
will give birth to boys, and conversely. This is the simplest instance 
of transfer from a secular to a magical use without resort to an 
intermediary person such as the medicine-man. 

Bows, mats, and staffs are articles of everyday use until their 
owners are dead and the articles are deposited in the house of bows. 
Such a house is then sacred, because the ancestral spirits can be 
induced to enter it to grant favors after sacrifice has been made. 
Cowrie shells were normally a medium of exchange, but they may 
become a charm in order to induce conception. A snake's backbone 
acquires power when threaded by the medicine-man and placed 
round the neck of a patient who suffers from rheumatism. A cooking 
pot of clay is entirely secular until it becomes the property of a 
hunter, after which no other person may use it. A piece of an ant 
hill is merely earth. But if the belated traveler takes such a piece 
from the top of the hill and places it in the fork of a branch there 
will be an extension of daylight. A ritual element enters in the spell, 
"0 sun, wait for me a little while." 

The unifying and binding effect of magical rites, simple or com- 
plex, private and public, is the warp of the fabric by which the 
weft threads of the social pattern are bound together. To vary 
the metaphor, tribal life is a sphere of action, a universe having 
principal units around which others revolve. Each unit of the 
structure has a course and movements peculiar to itself, but there 
is no actual isolation from the influences of other bodies. 



Cultural Processes 347 

The part played by Portuguese influence in the formation of the 
culture of the Ovimbundu has previously been recognized, and in 
conclusion reference should be made to Portuguese and Ovimbundu 
relationships at the present day. 

Native trade and military organization were at one time aided 
by caravan journeys resulting in the acquisition of slaves and 
ivory, which were traded for guns and powder. But this caravan 
trade touching remote parts of central and east Africa is now obsolete. 
Therefore a breaking down of the economic structure has occurred, 
but this has to some extent been counteracted by the development 
of agriculture, which yields large crops of maize and beans. 

In the administration of law a new social consciousness has 
arisen. Portuguese government is of a somewhat direct kind, yet 
village chiefs and kings have some juridical rights. Appeal to a 
chief or a king was the old method of securing justice, and at present 
such appeal may be made by an aggrieved Ocimbundu; but should 
the appellant be dissatisfied he turns to the Portuguese court. 

Portuguese policy aims at making the Ovimbundu a social reflec- 
tion of the Portuguese themselves. European clothing and manu- 
factures are favored, and Portuguese speech is encouraged, to the 
detriment of the native Umbundu. 

Initiation ceremonies are forbidden, but the bush is wide and 
protective. To prevent these ceremonies is to take the core from the 
social system, which has already been weakened by recruiting of 
labor, so leading to disturbance of family life and village organization. 
Christian missions have an influence on dress, beliefs, and habits, but 
these effects appear to be local. 

Although this report has been chiefly geographical, ethnological, 
historical, and analytical, no apology for the method chosen is 
necessary since this kind of approach is fundamental. I might, 
in compliance with a modern trend, have made the monograph 
center in persons, especially Ngonga. By making a close psycho- 
logical study of his early years, his native environment, and changes 
in mental attitude arising from contact with Portuguese rule and 
American missions, an illuminating record of the result of conflicting 
social forces could be given. 

In a sense, Ngonga, who speaks English, Portuguese, and Um- 
bundu fluently, has been the focus of study, and care has been 
taken to recognize his personality in this report. I realize that in 
Angola work of an intensive psychological and sociological kind 
remains to be done by means of a penetrating analysis of many 



348 The Ovimbundu 

individual careers. Inquirers should closely observe persons who are 
yet molded chiefly by their native environment, and these individuals 
should be compared with those who have left their own culture, 
either permanently or temporarily, to form part of a European 
social and economic system. 

Ethnologists, educationalists, and administrators are concerned 
with the effects of conflicting cultures on individual attitudes and 
the stability of native institutions of all kinds. This type of psycho- 
logical and sociological study has not been attempted in detail here, 
and I am not confident that research so closely concerned with 
administrative methods would be encouraged from a foreigner, 
though he might be welcomed in Angola as a collector and ethnologist. 

During four centuries of foreign contacts the Ovimbundu have 
continued their resistance to European influence, and field records 
of 1929 are clear evidence of the tenacity of indigenous culture. But, 
unfortunately, the decline of indigenous industries, thought processes, 
institutions, and language has begun. Yet I venture to hope that 
this monograph will lay a dependable and timely foundation for 
future studies of behavior, for on research of that kind depends a 
sympathetic understanding of Negro reaction to European intrusion. 



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INDEX 



Ablution, ceremonial, 278, 282, 293 
Abortion, 185, 186 

A CtlCltlS 109 

Adultery, 182, 203; see Law, Punish- 
ments 

Adze, 162, 167 

Afterbirth, 185 

Age, 189; and ornament, 132; see 
Seasons 

Agriculture, 146-152, 212, 289, 291, 
300, 302 

Albinos, 101, 186 

Alcohol, 141; see Beer, Intoxication, 
Maize, Wine 

Aloes, 109 

Ambassa, 113 

Ambrizette, 119 

Ambuella, 122, 322 

Ambundu, 234 

Ancestor worship, 119; see Death, 
Divination, Exorcism, Funerals, King, 
Religion, Ritual, Sacrifice, Spirits 

Angola, see chapter headings; and 
Congo, 286; and Rhodesia, 296; and 
South West Africa, 303 

Animals, carved in wood, 164; see Cat- 
tle, Chickens, Domestic Animals, 
Goats, Hunting, Nature Lore, Pigs, 
Sacrifice, Sheep 

Antelope horns, 143 

Anthill, 137, 299 

Anvil, 159 

Arabia, 328 

Archaeology, 105, 166, 207, 327 

Archery, 120, 141, 291; see Arrows, 
Bows, Wooden Arrows 

Area of Angola, 108 

Arrows, 95, 122, 123, 137, 140, 161; 
details of construction, 172-174, 299; 
release of, 318 

Art, 97, 162; see Burned Patterns, 
Colors, Dyes, Painting 

Ashanti, 198 

Assagai, 175, 310; see Spears 

Ax, 93, 94, 122, 161, 167 

Babende, 293; see Congo 

Babunda, 129, 163; see Cangamba 

Baby, see Childhood, Lactation, Mar- 
riage, Naming, Pregnancy 

Baganda, 306 

Bags of fiber, 170 

Bahima, 336 

Bahuana, 293 

Bailundu, town of, 164, 192, 205, 207, 
209 

Bakongo, 288 

Bakuba, 322 



Baloki, 291 

Baluba, 322 

Bambala, 114, 290, 302, 314 

Bananas, 148, 336 

Bangala, 290 

Bantu, prefixes, 106, 107, 115; Negroes, 

128, 191; language, 234; religion and 

social system, 314-316 
Banyankole, 314 
Baobab tree, 109 
Bapedi, 309 
Bark, cloth, 131, 177, 229, 297, 301, 320; 

general uses of, 101, 140, 145, 146, 

150, 161, 170, 174, 183, 210 
Barotse, 297 

Barrenness, 102, 182; see Charms, Di- 
vorce 
Bashilele, 293, 317 
Baskets, 93, 157, 169-171, 319 
Basonge, 290 
Bastards, 189 
Batatela, 292 
Bavili, 288 
Bayaka, 116 

Beads, 117, 120, 130, 132; see Ornament 
Beans, 146 
Beds, 210 
Beer, 118, 141, 149, 167, 169, 180, 185, 

200, 210 
Bees, wax, 119, 140, 156; hives, 161; 

see Honey, Wax 
Bellows, 118, 160 
Belts, 176 
Benguela, town, 110, 157; Highlands, 

108, 109, 118, 127, 141, 313 
Berg Damara, 303, 308 
Betrothal, 179; see Courtship, Mar- 
riage 
Bihe\ 109, 114, 116, 120, 124, 296, 297 
Birds, 134-136, 140, 150, 172, 211, 319, 

338; see Arrows, Hunting, Wooden 

Arrows 
Blacksmith, 98, 118, 155, 158-161, 163, 

313, 314, 330 
Blackwater fever, 281 
Blankets, 210 

Bleeding of patients, 101; see Cupping 
Blood brothers, 187, 306, 316, 327; 

sprinkled, 156, 159, 166 
Bones in charms, 300 
Bows, 95, 141, 172-175, 209, 317, 322 
Bracelets, 131, 168 
Brass, tacks in hair, 131; nails, wire, 

176 
Bride, 180; see Courtship, Marriage, 

Tokens, Virginity 
Bridges, 99 
Brothers, see Kinship 



356 



Index 



357 



Brushes, 166 

Bulls, castrated, 154 

Burial, of commoners, 265-269; of 

hunters, 121, 273; of kings and chiefs, 

121, 271; of medicine-man, 270 
Burns, injuries, 282 
Burned designs, 93, 167; see Gourds, 

Wood-carving 
Bushmen, 100; paintings of, 123, 129, 

303, 308 
Butter, 149, 153, 337 

Cabbages, 148 

Cabinda enclave, 116, 124, 287, 315 

Caconda, 113, 124, 164, 232 

Calabashes, see Gourds 

Calendar, 137, 158 

Cameroon, 317 

Cancer, 282 

Cangamba, 115, 124, 146, 161, 162, 174, 
176, 230, 278-279, 298, 317, 318; 
see Vachokue Tribe 

Cannibalism, 120, 296, 335; see Death 
of King, Sacrifice 

Canoes, 100, 101, 145, 161, 300, 321; 
see Bark, Fishing 

Caravans, 119, 163, 212, 292, 296, 297, 
303; see Trade 

Cassanga, 141, 172 

Cassonge, 144 

Castration, 154, 203, 212 

Cataract of eyes, 281 

Caterpillars, 120, 121, 140, 291 

Cats, 156 

Cattle, 108, 110, 117, 119, 124, 127, 
133, 148, 153, 200, 236, 303-310, 
337; see Domestic Animals, Milk, 
Sacrifice, Vakuanyama 

Caves, for burial of king, 271; for shel- 
ter, 206 

Cereals, 146 

Chairs, 96, 320 

Charcoal, 122, 165; see Blacksmith, 
Forge, Timber 

Charms, 182, 185, 276-278; see Medi- 
cine-man 

Chickenpox, 281 

Chickens, 155, 166, 169, 209; in ordeal, 
283; see Eggs, Poultry 

Chief, 164, 183, 192, 200, 205; see 
King, Law, Village 

Childbirth, 183-186 

Children, 183-188; see Courtship, Di- 
vorce; diseases of, 281; games of, 
216-222; punished, 213; toys of, 221 

Circumcision, 120, 126, 227, 228, 231; 
see Initiation 

Clans, not among Ovimbundu, 192 

Classificatory system, 188-199 

Clay, 131, 165, 209; see Hair, Houses, 
Pottery, Tobacco-pipes 

Cleanliness, 282 



Climate, 108, 178 

Clothing, 131, 132, 157, 177; see Bark, 

Caravans, Cotton, Fiber, Hides, 

Leather, Ornament, Trade 
Clubs as weapons, 96, 141, 162, 164, 310, 

318 
Coast of Angola, 110 
Cocoon, 121 
Collecting food, 140; see Caterpillars, 

Fruits 
Colors, names of, 237 
Combs for hair, 130 
Conception, 181, 184, 186, 187 
Concubines, 189, 206 
Conduct, 213; and religion, 264, 345 
Confederacy of kings, 127 
Congo, region and culture, 113, 116, 

118, 123, 126, 127, 191, 235, 286-296, 

314, 318, 320 
Continence, 184 
Cooking, 146-152, 169, 180, 181, 210, 

211,213 
Corpse questioned, 122, 123, 125, 184, 

297 301 
Cotton, 119, 124, 177 
Council house, see Men's House 
Counting, 252 
Courtship, 179, 214 

Cowrie shells, 187; see Charms, Concep- 
tion 
Crime, see Adultery, Law, Mother's 

Brother, Murder, Punishments, Theft 
Cross-cousin marriage, 194, 315; see 

Kinship 
Culture, antiquity of, 312; losses of, 

334-336; contacts, 115, 286-306, 312- 

322 
Cuma, 123, 208 
Cunene River, 109, 307 
Cupping (bleeding), 101, 282, 301 

Dancing, 209, 211, 221, 222 

Death of chief, 164, 202, 263-267; see 
Corpse, Funerals, Tombs 

Defences, 207; see Warfare 

Deformities at birth, 187; see Mutila- 
tions, Ornaments 

Descent, 189, 192, 316; see Inheritance, 
Kinship, Law, Names 

Diego Cao, 113 

Diffusion of cultures, 286-337 

Diphtheria, 281 

Diseases, 281, 282 

Dishonesty, 214; see Law, Theft 

Divination, 120, 122, 274-277, 297, 300 

Division of labor, 133, 169, 212, 340-342 

Divorce, 181-183, 342 

Dogs, 143, 153, 155, 206, 211; as food, 
294; see Hunting, Taboos 

Domestic, animals, 99, 152-156; slavery, 
see Law, Pawns, Slavery, Warfare; 
utensils, 94, 162, 180, 183, 199, 210 



358 



The Ovimbundu 



Donkey, 152 

Doors, 208 

Dreams, 275, 277 

Drought, 109; see Climate, Rainfall, 

Rain-maker, Seasons 
Drums, 98, 118, 124, 204, 211, 223-225, 

279, 292; house for, 306, 312, 334; see 

Friction Drum, Signals, Warfare 
Dyes, 170, 172; see Baskets, Colors, 

Iron, Painting, Pigments 
Dysentery, 281 

Eating customs, 148 

Eclipse, 137 

Ecology of Angola, 108 

Economics, 133-177 

Education, 212-233, 343 

Eggs, 156, 213 

Elende, Ovimbundu center, 116, 123, 
129, 164, 167, 175, 177, 204, 318 

Elephant, 185, 188 

Elephantiasis, 281 

Elevation of land, 109 

Epidemics, 281, 322 

Erythrophlaeum guineense, 119, 287, 
301; see Poison Ordeal 

Etiquette, 216; see Conduct, Manners, 
Salutes 

Euphorbias, 109 

Europeans, see Caravans, Historical Evi- 
dence, Missions, Portuguese, Trade 

Exogamy, 192 

Exorcism, 281 

Family, 191, 200; see Kinship 

Feasts, funeral, 208; marriage, 180 

Fiber, 172, 322; see Bark, Initiation, 
]VT nsks 

Figurines, 96, 156, 162, 164; see Mus6e 
Congo Beige, Religion, Wood-carving 

Fines, 209; see Law, Punishments 

Fire, 117, 150, 151; sacred, 211, 283, 
284, 287, 290, 291, 302, 307-311 

Fishing, 100, 145; fish poisoned, 291; 
traps, 171, 212 

Floors, 166, 210 

Flutes, 98, 225, 294 

Foetus, 186; see Conception, Pregnancy 

Folklore, 123, 248-252, 255-261 

Foods, 140-156, 312, 313, 336; see Ag- 
riculture, Beans, Cooking, Domestic 
Animals, Maize, Manioc, Meat, Milk, 
Squash, Sweet Potatoes 

Forge, 160; see Blacksmith, Iron 

Foster mother, 187 

Friction drum, 288, 312, 319 

Frigidity of wife, 182 

Fruits, 148 

Functional school, 107 

Funeral rites, 99, 145, 153, 265-269 

Games, 216-222 

Ganda, province of, 144, 207 



Garbage pits, 209 

Gardens, 181; see Agriculture, Hoes 

Genealogy, see Kinship 

Geographical factors, 106, 108-111 

Girls, 124, 126; see Courtship, Initia- 
tion, Occupations 

Goats, 149, 151, 155 

God, 262, 295, 307, 344; see Kalunga, 
Nzambi, Religion, Suku 

Gongs, 117, 123, 204 

Gora, 321; see Music, Musical Bow 

Gossip, 146, 183 

Gourds, 118, 122, 165, 167, 185 

Government, 199-204; see Chiefs, Kings, 
Law, Punishments 

Graebnerian theories, 312; see Kul- 
turkreis 

Granary, 209 

Grandparents, 191; see Kinship 

Grass, 170 

Grasshopper, 145 

Grease for clothes, 129, 130; see Hair- 
dressing, Oil, Palms 

Greetings, 214, 215; see Manners, 
Salutations 

Groundnuts, 108; see Peanuts 

Groves, sacred, 314 

Guinea, 118 

Guns, 127, 142, 176 

Hairdressing, 129, 131, 181, 189 
Hamites, 128, 305, 313, 316, 328; see 

Bakitara, Pastoral Culture, South 

West Africa 
Hammer of blacksmith, 159, 314 
Hearth stones, 180 
Hemp, 151, 152, 165, 292 
Herero, 307 
Hernia, 281 

Hides, 100, 153, 175, 177, 302 
Hippopotamus, 188 
Historical evidence, 106, 112-127 
Hoes, 119, 166, 290, 312, 316 
Homosexuality, 181 
Honey, 140, 149 
Horns, 153; see Funerals, Graves, and 

Tobacco-pipes 
Horse, 152 
Hospitality, 179, 214 
Hottentots, 303, 309, 315 
Household, 191; see Kinship Terms 
Houses, 96, 126, 208, 209, 212; see 

Domestic Utensils, Village 
Huila, 124 
Human sacrifice, 118; see King's Death, 

Slaves 
Humpata, 154 
Hunting, 98, 121, 126, 140-145, 212, 

272, 290, 317, 331; see Arrows, Burial, 

Ritual, Tombs, Traps 
Husband, see Courtship, Kinship, Mar- 
riage 



Index 



359 



Ibo tribe, 128, 313, 328 

Ijaw tribe, 328 

Illustrations, titles of, 89-102 

Impotence in male, 182 

Incest, 192, 194 

Industries, 158-170, 212, 344 

Infantile paralysis, 281 

Infidelity, 187; see Divorce 

Inheritance, 288, 316; see Law 

Initiation, 101, 124-126, 226-233, 316, 

317 
Intoxication, 141, 150, 214; see Beer 
Iron, 122-124, 158-161, 171, 313-315, 

330 
Irrigation, 147 
Ivory, 119 

Jaggas, 113, 116, 117 
Jealousy, 193, 204 
Jesuits, 114 
Jiggers, 282 

Kalunga, 115, 295, 307 

Kasai River, 109, 164, 286, 291, 292, 
315; see Lunda 

Katanga, 297 

Katoko, 115, 124 

Kimbundu, 115, 125 

King, 120, 192, 200, 202, 205; com- 
pound of, 209; death of, 310; funeral 
of, 271, 306; killed, 307; salutes to, 214 

Kinship terms, 188-199, 288, 300, 309, 
315 

Kipungo tribe, 129, 141 

Kitchen, 181, 187, 209; see Cooking 

Knives, 162, 175, 176 

Kpelle tribe, 313 

Kraals, 211, 304 

Kru tribe, 128, 328 

Kulturkreis theory, 320-326 

Kusongo, 125 

Kwando River, 111 

Kwanza River, 109, 122, 145 

Lactation, 182, 187 

Lambas of Rhodesia, 296 

Land, ownership of, 201 

Language, families, 329; Umbundu, 

116, 234-250 
Law, 199-204 

Leather belts, 130, 176; see Oxhide 
Leopard, 189; see Folklore 
Leprosy, 281 
Lewd stories, 214 
Liberia, 313, 328 
Lion, 185 
Lizards, 138 

Loads, see Caravans, Trade 
Loanda, 110, 114, 116, 157 
Lobito, 157 
Locusts, 140 
Loom, 124 



Luchazi tribe, 125, 129, 158 

Luimba tribe, 122, 123 

Luina tribe, 122, 125 

Lunda district, 114, 122, 123, 129, 176, 

299; see Saurimo 
Lustration, 278, 284, 291, 310; see Fire, 

Medicine-man, Sacred Fire, Village 

Site 
Luvando tribe, 128, 131 

Madagascar, 321 

Magic, 273-285, 346; see Divination, 

Medicine-man, Poison Ordeal 
Mayombe tribe, 287 
Mahuila, 123 
Maize, 100, 108, 118, 126, 127, 141, 156, 

165, 189, 312; see Agriculture, Beer 
Malange, 292 
Malaria, 281 

Malayo-Negritan traits, 320 
Mancala, 124, 291, 293, 302 
Manioc, 108, 146, 147, 312 
Manners, 213; see Salutation 
Marimba, 117, 225, 303, 322 
Markets, 157 

Marriage, 180, 181, 214; see Kinship 
Marutse 298 

Masks, 96, 126, 228, 293, 317, 323, 324 
Matches for ignition, 150 
Mats, 99, 169, 210 
Mayombe tribe, 287 
Meal times, 148 
Meat as food, 148 

Medicinal plants, 280-288; see Phar- 
macopoeia 
Medicine-man, 101, 120, 136, 151, 155, 

156, 181, 182, 203, 210, 213, 270, 

273-285 
Men's house, 121, 209, 295 
Menstruation, 185, 186, 300 
Meshwork nets, 320 
Mice, 137 

Migrations, 115, 312-326 
Milk, 119, 149, 153, 291, 302, 336 
Missions, Christian, 347 
Mists, 112 
Moero Lake, 119 
Mongua, 128, 129, 319 
Moon, 137 
Morals, 295, 345 
Mossamedes, 110, 113 
Mother-in-law, 193 
Mother's brother, 195, 198, 200; see 

Kinship 
Mourning, 269 
Moxico, 125 
Mucilage, 157; used for catching birds, 

299 
Mukuru, a god, 308 
Mule, 153 

Mural decoration, 293; see Painting 
Murder, 159, 202 



360 



The Ovimbundu 



Musee Congo Beige, 293 

Mushicongo, 287 

Music, bow, 225, 294, 322; general, 

216-222; instruments, 97, 118, 124, 

162, 294 
Mussurongo, 129, 236 
Mutilation, 203; see Castration, Teeth, 

Scarification 

Names, personal, 188, 189 
Nature lore, 134-140, 236 
Necklaces, 117; see Beads, Ornaments, 

Ostrich Eggshell 
Neck rests, 320 
Needles, 169, 171; see Basketry and 

Mat-making 
Negro culture summarized, 332 
New Guinea, 320 
Ngalangi, 115, 124, 129, 150, 164, 166, 

177, 186, 187, 205-207, 210, 230 
Ngongo, 115, 163 
Nigeria, 157 
Nose-pin, 132 
Novo Redondo, 176 

Nzambi, a god, 123, 288, 298, 307 

Occupations, see Basketry, Blacksmith, 

Hunting, Pottery, Wood-carving 
Oceania, 320 
Ogun, god, 314 
Oil, 157, 181, 189; see Palms 
Omba shells, 129 
Omens, 285, 286 
Ordeal, 119, 203, 229, 283; see Poison 

Ordeal 
Ornaments, personal, 128-132 
Ostriches, 117, 130 
Ovambo, 124, 175, 303, 307 
Ovimbundu, meaning of name, 112; see 

chapter headings 
Ox, see Cattle, Sacrifice, South West 

Africa, Vakuanyama 
Oxhide, burial in, 121, 123, 306, 310 

Painting, face, 182, 186; walls of houses, 
102, 208, 210, 292 

Palisades, 208; see Village Construction, 
Warfare 

Palm, 108, 117, 146, 177, 336; oil, 157, 
181; see Raffia 

Paolo Diaz, 113 

Papaya, 148, 336 

Parents, see Kinship, Marriage; names 
of, 188 

Parturition, 185; see Childbirth, Preg- 
nancy 

Pastoral culture, 331; see Cattle, Do- 
mestic Animals, South West Africa, 
Vakuanyama 

Patrilocal marriage, 191 

Pawns, 191, 200, 203, 205; see Law, 
Maternal Uncle, Slavery 



Peanuts (groundnuts), 147 

Personality, 344 

Pestle, 184 

Pets, 140, 156 

Pharmacopoeia, 281 ; see Medicine-man, 
Nature Lore 

Philosophy, 339 

Phonetics, 238-252 

Phonograph records, 238-253 

Physical types, 99, 100, 123, 128-132 

Pigs, 99, 154, 161, 188 

Pigments, 129, 130, 170; see Dyes, 
Tukula Wood, Painting 

Pile dwellings, 320, 322 

Play, 169, 216-222; see Education, 
Games, Music 

Pneumonia, 282 

Poison, ordeal, 117, 119, 122, 203, 283, 
288, 290, 292, 298; for fish, 145; for 
weapons, 204 

Polygamy, 148, 193; see Marriage, 
Jealousy, Kinship 

Portuguese, 110, 112-127, 198, 201, 
203, 312, 334, 347 

Potatoes, 147; in poison ordeal, 203; 
see Sweet Potatoes 

Potion, magical, 185, 187 

Pottery, 94, 98, 167-169, 183, 319 

Pouches of leather, 176 

Poultry, 155, 211; see Chickens, Do- 
mestic Animals 

Pounding maize, 165 

Powder for guns, 176, 204 

Pregnancy, 183-185, 300 

Pre-nuptial relations, 341; see Court- 
ship 

Presents, 179, 182, 213 

Prohibitions, 285, 286 

Property, see Death, Divorce, Law 

Psychology, general, 337-348; and 
ornament, 132 

Puberty, 233, 296, 316, 336;see Initiation 

Punishments, 206; see Adultery, Law, 
Murder, Theft 

Python bones as charm, 298 

Quinine, 185 
Quiver, 175 

Racial migration, 328-330 

Raffia palm, 177, 336; see Fiber, Palms 

Rainfall, 108, 109, 151, 158, 178 

Rain-maker, 118, 122, 137, 283, 306 

Rats, 137; shot and trapped, 289 

Rattles, 120, 225 

Reeds in mat-making, 169 

Reincarnation, 262, 263 

Relatives, see Kinship 

Religion, 233, 262-284; see Ancestor 
Worship, God, Magic, Medicine- 
man, Sacrifice, Soul, Spirit 

Reptiles, 138 



Index 



361 



Rhodesia, 110, 191, 198, 296-303 

Riddles, 253, 254 

Rijks Museum, catalogue of, 294 

Ritual, blacksmith, 155, 158; burial, 
265-269; caravan, 163; charm, 276- 
278; divorce, 183; hunter, 144; mur- 
der, 159; medicine-man, 273-285; 
parturition, 185; religion, 262-286; 
trade, 156 

Rivers of Angola, 109 

Rope, 170, 336 

Royal family, 183, 192; see Burial, 
Descent, Inheritance, Kings, Kin- 
ship, Law, Succession 

Sacred fire, 120, 305; see Fire 

Sacred and profane uses, 346 

Sacrifice, human, 118, 156, 159, 166; to 
spirits, 180, 263 

Salt, 122, 150, 179 

Salutes, 213, 215-216 

Sandals, 309, 310 

Sanitation, 209 

Sankuru River, 291 

San Salvador, 113 

Saurimo, 174, 176, 292 

Saw, 161 

Scapegoat, 118, 285, 327 

Scarification, 97, 101, 282, 295, 321 

Scarlet fever, 281 

Scrap iron, 123, 158; see Blacksmith 

Seasons, 158; see Climate, Rainfall, 
Time, Weather 

Semitic culture, 327 

Serpent, significance of, 275, 285; see 
Divination, Nature Lore, Omens, 
Python 

Sewing, 171 

Sex and occupation, 340-342 

Sexual relations, 179-189; see Be- 
trothal, Courtship, Divorce, Mar- 
riage, Polygamy 

Sheep, 149, 155 

Shells, 120, 129; see Cowrie, Omba 
Shell, Ornament, Ostrich Shell 

Shields, 204, 320, 335 

Sierra Leone, 317 

Sickness, 188, 276-282; see Medicine- 
man 

Signaling, 204; with drums, 334 

Sign language, 252, 253 

Sisters, see Kinship 

Skull trophies, 120-122, 144 

Slavery, 113, 191, 201, 204-206, 292, 
312, 316 

Smallpox, 281 

Smelting iron, 314; see Blacksmith 

Snakes, 138; see Divination, Omens, 
Python, Serpent 

Snuff, 151, 162; see Tobacco 

Social values, 345 

Solomon Islands, 320 



Songs, in games, 217; in marching and 

war, 226 
Soul, 124, 263, 264, 290, 295; see 

Religion, Spirits 
South West Africa, 303-313; see Cattle, 

Herero, Ovambo, Vakuanyama 
Spears, 142, 175; for fishing, 145; see 

Assagai, Weapons 
Specialization in tasks, 212, 213 
Spells in magic, 137, 145 
Spinning cotton, 119, 124, 177; see 

Weaving 
Spirits, good and bad, 263, 264 
Spoons, 180; see Domestic Utensils 
Squash, 146; see Gourds 
Staffs, ceremonial, 96, 164 
Stars, 136 

Sterility of male, 182 
Stilts, 101, 121, 231, 317 
Stone, construction with, 207 
Stools, 177, 299; see Wood-carving 
Succession, 316; see Kinship, Law 
Sudanic Negroes, 191, 313; see Ibo, Kru 
Sugar-cane, 148 
Suicide, 125 

Suku, god, 123, 233, 262 
Sun, 137 

Sweat bath, 282, 309 
Sweet potatoes, 108, 312 
Symbols, see Divination, 274-277; 

used in naming persons, 188, 189 

Tables of relationship, 189-191, 196, 197 
Taboos, general, 285; hunter, 144; 

mother-in-law, 193; pregnancy, 184; 

see Omens 
Tanganyika, 114, 156 
Taxes 205 
Teeth,' brushed, 170; mutilated, 102, 

122, 128, 129, 287 
Termites, 299 
Theft, 181, 201, 202 
Timbers, uses of, 138-140, 161; see 

Trees, Wood-carving 
Time, 158; see Agriculture, Calendar, 

Spfwnn s 

Tobacco, 94, 98, 151, 158, 162, 165, 176, 
289, 312; see Agriculture, Hemp, 
Water-pipe, Wood-carving 

Tokens of betrothal, 179, 182 

Tomatoes, 148 

Tombs, 98, 100, 208; see Burial, 
Funerals 

Tone and stress, 239 

Tongs, 160 

Tools, 95; as symbols of sex, 184; see 
Baskets, Blacksmith, Handicrafts, 
Occupations, Mats, Weapons, Wood- 
carving 

Topography, 108, 178 

Totems not used by Ovimbundu, 188, 
324 



362 



The Ovimbundu 



Trade, 98, 114, 117, 142, 152, 156-158, 

161, 297, 311; see Caravans 
Traits of culture summarized, 331 
Transformation into animal, 263 
Traps, 142, 317, 318; see Fishing, 

Hunting 
Trees, 138-140; planted in village, 206 
Tribal names, spelling of, 106; see under 

letters V, B, M 
Triplets, 124, 186, 187 
Tsetse fly, 108, 109, 124 
Tuberculosis, 281 
Tukula wood, 117, 130, 131, 287, 293, 

295 
Twins, 124, 163, 185, 187, 301 
Typhoid, 281 

Uganda, 198 

Ulcers, 281 

Umbilical cord, 185 

Umbundu, see Folklore, Language, 
Phonetics, Proverbs, Trade, Vo- 
cabulary 

Uncle, 191; see Kinship, Law, Mother's 
Brother 

Unity of cultural traits, 107 

Utensils, see Cooking, Domestic Uten- 
sils, Kitchen, Wood-carving 

Vachokue, 110, 115, 119, 125, 128, 150, 
151, 163, 166-168, 172, 173, 179, 187, 
205, 231, 235, 278, 279, 297, 322; see 
Cangamba, Saurimo 

Vacilenge, 119, 149 

Vaheneca, 123, 128 

Vakipungo, 173 

Vakuanyama, 111, 125, 128, 141, 152, 
153, 173, 177, 235, 304, 307, 317, 318; 
see Cattle, Culture Contacts 

Vangangella, 129, 177, 214 

Vanyemba, 101, 230 

Vapor bath, 301 

Vasele, 118, 128, 141, 150, 155, 173, 174, 
176, 207, 234 

Vegetable fiber, ornaments of, 131; see 
Bark, Baskets, Cotton, Mats, Palms, 
Raffia 

Vegetation, 108-111 

Victoria Nyanza, 309, 319 

Vila Nova de Selles, 132, 176 

Village, construction of, 124; organiza- 
tion of, 206-211 



Virginity, 180 

Vocabulary, 235, 236; see Folklore, 

Language, Nature Lore, Phonetics, 

Umbundu 

Warfare, 109, 116, 177, 192, 204-206, 
311 

Water-pipe for smoking, 122, 151, 153, 
165, 289; see Hemp, Tobacco 

Wayao 299 

Wax, 141, 156, 158, 174-175; see Bees, 
Honey, Trade 

Weapons, 95, 172-177; see Arrows, 
Bows, Clubs, Knives, Shields, Spears 

Weather, 136; see Climate, Geograph- 
ical Factors, Rainfall, Seasons 

Weaving, 177 

Wedding, 167; see Bride, Marriage 

Weir in fishing, 145 

Welding of traits, 337-348 

Wells, 111 

Whipping, of boys, 125; top, 301 

Whooping cough, 281 

Widows, 199, 343; see Death, Funeral, 
Inheritance, Mourning 

Wife, lending, 181; principal, 131; see 
Courtship, Kinship, Marriage, Poly- 
gyny 

Wine, 117, 158, 176; see Alcohol, In- 
toxication, Jaggas, Palms 

Winnowing, 171 

Wire, as ornament, 131; see Bracelet, 
Brass 

Witchcraft, see Charms, Corpse Ques- 
tioned, Funerals, Magic, Medicine- 
man 

Wizard, see Magic, Medicine-man 

Wood-carving, 93-94, 98, 161-165, 293, 
319; see Domestic Utensils, Figurines, 
Nature Lore, Trees 

Wooden arrows, 137, 140, 173, 211 

Women, social position of, 341; see 
Childbirth, Law, Marriage, Occu- 
pations, Pregnancy 

Worms, intestinal, 281 

Yams, 313 
Yaws, 281 

Zambezi River, 109, 111, 317, 321 
Zanzibar, 297 



THE LIBRARY OF THE 

JUL 1 6 1934 

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate IX 







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BASKET-WORK PATTERNS 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate X 




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BASKET-WORK PATTERNS 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XI 





INCISED AND BURNED DESIGNS ON A GOURD 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XII 





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INCISED AND BURNED DECORATIONS ON GOURDS 



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Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XIII 




7 8 

WOODEN COMBS, TOOLS, DOMESTIC IMPLEMENTS, AND WEAPONS 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XIV 




POTTERY AND WOODEN UTENSILS 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Hate XV 




TOBACCO-PIPES, SNUFF BOX, RAT TRAP, AND BASKET 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XVI 




TOOLS AND WEAPONS 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XVII 







BOWS AND ARROWHEADS 



Field Museum of Natural History Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XVIII 




HUT FURNITURE AND MASK 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XIX 




WOOD-CARVING 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XX 




STAFFS OF VILLAGE CHIEFS 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XXI 








CARVED HUMAN FIGURES 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XXII 




MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XXIII 




DRAWINGS REPRESENTING LIFE OF OVIMBUNDU, ELENDE 
Made by untrained Ocimbundu youth who had lived with Europeans 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XXIV 




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Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XXVII 





OVIMBUNDU DRUMMERS, ELENDE 
Fig. 1. Long drums. Fig. 2. Flat drum 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XXIX 









AGRICULTURE NEAR GANDA 
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Field Museum of Natural History 



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Anthropology, Vol. XXI. Plate XXXIX 





OVIMBUNDU, ELENDE 
Fig. 1. Hunter. Fig. 2. Woman making coiled basket 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XL 






OVIMBUNDU TRIBE 

Fig. 1. Flute players, Bailundu. Fig. 2. Bark removed for making utensils, Elende 

Fig. 3. Girl, hair studded with brass nails, Elende 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XLI 





OVIMBUNDU WOOD-CARVERS, ELENDE 
Fig. 1. Making human and animal figures. Fig. 2. Carving drum 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XLIII 








TRANSPORTATION, OVIMBUNDU, ELENDE 
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Fig. 1. Old Ocimbundu questioning corpse and offering food. Fig. 2. Burial place of chief, Elende 



Field Museum of Natural History Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XLVI 




FUNERAL RITES, OVIMBUNDU 

Fig. 1. Hut where possessions of dead chiefs are kept, Elende 

Fig. 2. Horns of ox over grave, near Caconda 



Field Museum of Natural History Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XLVII 




FUNERAL RITES, OVIMBUNDU, CACONDA 
Fig. 1. Baskets and coffin pole on grave. Fig. 2. Hut over grave 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XLVIII 






SOCIAL LIFE OF OVIMBUNDU 
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OVIMBUNDU YOUTHS, ELENDE 



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Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate LIII 




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PIGS OWNED BY OVIMBUNDU, ELENDE, KELTIC BREED 



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Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate LVI 





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DOMESTIC ANIMALS, OVIMBUNDU 

Fig. 1. Sheep and lamb, Elende. Fig. 2. Dog, Elende, ears clipped "to 

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Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate LVII 





DOMESTIC ANIMALS, OVIMBUNDU, ELENDE 
Fig. 1. Cattle. Fig. 2. Goats 



d Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate LIX 





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Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate LXXXIV 





TYPES OF VACHOKUE, MONA KUIMBUNDU, NORTHEAST ANGOLA 
Fig. 1. Women pounding maize. Fig. 2. Dwelling 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate LXXXV 




VACHOKUE FISHING AT CANGAMBA 
Fig. 1. Women dragging basket. Fig. 2. Man in bark canoe, holding net 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate LXXXVI 





VACHOKUE, EAST ANGOLA 
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Fig. 1. House where king communes with ancestral spirits, Ngalangi 

Fig. 2. House with painted walls, near Bailundu 

Fig. 3. Group showing mixture of tribes at Ngalangi 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Anthropology, Vol. XXI, Plate XCII 





MAGIC AND HUNTING, CENTRAL ANGOLA 

Fig. 1. Mound where childless women are covered with mud to give fertility, Vargangella, Ngalangi 

Fig. 2. Trap for leopards, Cangamba 



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